Last week Japan announced it would allow experiments to grow human organs in animals. These experiments are controversial, not in the least place because of animal welfare concerns and the possibility of cross-species diseases. However, xenotransplantation is not the only line of research pursued to solve the shortage of donor organs. Continue reading Organ cultivation
On ZDNET an interesting article about Markforged – a company that is working on a mass production 3D printer. As we have previously pointed out on this site, 3D printing is along side with in situ resource utilization one of the key technologies that will be of critical importance of making space settlements independent from terrestrial imports.
The Guardian has published an interesting article about using 3D printers for creating human organs. The idea is quite simple: if you have the required tissue types, the 3D printer is able to print the organ you want. Organs are three-dimensional structures, and because they are standardized, their structure could be stored in a computer file.
Combined with the ongoing developments in stem cell research, this technology might make organ donation obsolete by 2050. This is great news for space colonists, at least if they would need an organ transplant in outer space. If an organ needs to be sent from Earth, it would take months before it arrives at a space settlement in the Earth-Sun’s Lagrange points or in the Asteroid belt. Even if the organ would survive the transport, it might arrive too late for the patient.
As a regular reader of our site might know, Republic of Langrangia are strongly in favour of 3D printers (see here and here). Recently, this idea has become mainstream. On space.com you can read the following article: 3D Printing Could Aid Deep-Space Exploration, NASA Chief Says.
The basic argument for 3D-printing in Space are simple: our Solar system is rich in all kinds of resources. Through in situ resource utilization the input for 3D printers can be made from asteroidal material (or if necessary from Lunar or Martian material). The blue prints of the needed objects can be stored electronically on board of a Space colony or can be transmitted from Earth. This would significantly reduce the launch of all kind of supplies.
3D printing will also reduce the number of people needed for Space industries, because a 3D printer can print a whole variety of things. And in principle, we have to launch only one 3D printer, since this machines should be able to reproduce themselves.