Written for the University of Michigan’s One Cool Thing mobile app (05/23/15)
3D printing replacing animal testing
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed miniature hearts and livers designed to mimic the operation of their full-sized equivalents, reports NewScientist. Human skin cells are repurposed to create heart cells, clustered into a cell culture, and then manipulated by a 3D printer to give them their designated organ shape. Coming in at a diameter of 0.25 millimetres, these tiny organs have a life-sized workload ahead of them. In the future a complete system of organs could be produced and used as a more efficient means for testing new drugs. The tiny organs could also be used to explore how certain chemicals and viruses affect our bodies. Currently such tests are conducted with animals, a process that many object to, and which may produce results that aren’t relevant to humans.