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Op-Ed: New all-living materials 3D bioinks — The future of regenerative medicine is here

The big deal about the all-living 3D printable bioinks is that the training wheels are now off.

Image: — © AFP
Image: — © AFP

Bioinks (check this link for one of the most understated descriptions of all time) are organically 3D printed living materials. These materials can be used to create organic ways to absorb toxins, structure DNA for specific uses and anything else you can fit into a brave vocabulary.

The big news is that the new bioinks are made of all living materials with no artificial additives or other materials. It’s a real breakthrough. These new bioinks are the first stage of an evolution which will see 3D printing of organs and other living tissues. The possibilities are quite literally limitless. It’d take an encyclopedia to discuss the full significance of this achievement. The links give a useful overview.

The big deal about the all-living 3D printable bioinks is that the training wheels are now off. As you’d expect from any major science, the news is bubbling away every day on new applications. From printed blood plasma to fibrin to immunized skin to genetically engineered microbial bioinks, the progress is continuous.

Many of the more interesting new applications for bioinks are in regenerative medicine. Hearts, muscles, and vocal cords are already in the mix for this healing process. This is practical “tissue engineering”, the early form or what could well become the human smash repair shop of the future.

Regenerative medicine could also be truthfully called a critical survival skill for humanity. This is where the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and human suffering finally run out of ammunition.

A science determined NOT to be incomprehensible? How odd.

The other, unavoidable, thing you notice about bioinks is the sheer range, scope, and scale of information provided. It’s a high-speed blur of science in some ways. Fortunately, the 3D bioink guys can take the science and make it visible and comprehensible very effectively. No, comprehensibility is not illegal.

In this case, painstakingly simplified graphics, for example, are truly fascinating. (Why does anyone think you can visualize science on terminology alone? Nobody learns science that way.) The good news is that these graphics at least allow you to see the processes for things like regenerative medicine. It really is fascinating.

A current saying of mine is “Either get a violin or get to the point”. There’s a reason for that, and it’s mainly to do with godawful explanations of science. One of the great curses of nearly all extremely important science is lousy communication techniques. Regenerative medicine is true Big Science, and it needs to be as clearly stated as possible. Bioinks, for some reason, have managed to do that extremely well. It’s a good template. Can the other sciences kindly condescend to take the hint?

To make materials at will for medical and regeneration is one of the Holy Grails of medicine. The net result will be drastic ongoing improvements in medical efficiency. Expect to be astonished, regularly.

You can read the full study in Nature Communications on this link.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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