Need a New Knee? Print One
While modern medical technology has not reached the stage where one is able to get a robotic prosthetics in the same vein as that of Anakin Skywalker when he received a lesson in lightsaber dueling against Count Dooku, we have arrived at the edge of the doorstep, where one might be able to print 3D cartilage constructs as and when required. This is what a bunch of researchers over at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have demonstrated recently using a novel bioprinter that relies on a couple of low-cost fabrication techniques so that it can deliver a structure which is not only durable but biologically active.
An electrospinning machine will rely on an electrical current to generate the kind of extremely fine fibers required from a polymer, resulting in a strong and porous structure. Following that, a common inkjet printer will deposit layers of natural gel, while a solution of cartilage cells is also put into the structure. You end up with a hybrid synthetic and natural cartilage construct which does seem to resemble that of actual cartilage after eight weeks of implantation in mice under earlier experiments. Hopefully, humans will be next without any devious side effects.