[MUSIC PLAYING] LAWRENCE BONASSAR: I'm Doctor Bonassar, and my lab makes ears. The invention that we've discovered is a way to print living cells in a material that can be used to reconstruct tissues in the body. My laboratory is interested in regenerating cartilage wherever it's found in the body.
The process starts with the scan of an ear. We sit someone down in a chair. Then we have a camera that spins around their head and takes a 3D image of their head. Then we can very precisely map out the topology of the ear.
The next kind of key step is developing the ink for this printer. This ink is actually a living ink. It contains living cells. It's alive when we put it into the printer. It's alive when it comes out of the printer.
The real power of the printing technique is that it can be used to make geometries that you just can't make with any other technique. You can make parts with holes in them. We can layer and cover and put different cells next to each other to create, really, the complex organs that make up our bodies. And after two months in an incubator, the tissue fills in and looks white, just like real cartilage.
The implants that we're making are not rubber or plastic. They are alive. They grow inside the body or out. And this has a whole host of advantages over conventional technology. The body accepts these materials like it's part of the body because it is.
Our long-term goals are to change the way that clinicians practice, to give them the next generation of implants that will be more successful, more like real tissue that will last in the body for decades.
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There is a revolutionary use for 3D printers in the medical field thanks to Lawrence Bonassar's lab. By printing cartilage implants with living ink, printed implants could one day treat degenerative disc disease or even replace a human ear.