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The problem with the future is that it's always another day away. We're bombarded with tantalizing glimpses of incredible medical and scientific breakthroughs, always just around the corner.
But the truth is that many of these technologies are moving off the drawing board and into the concrete testing phase. In some cases, they're even being tested on human beings in late-stage clinical trials.
More than that, each piece of technology here is ready to move out of the realm of research institutions, government grants, and private equity… and into the publicly traded arena.
"Printed" organs: Even today, organ transplantation and replacement is a dicey proposition. There are stringent criteria for organ waiting lists, leaving some out in the cold. And once a patient receives a transplanted organ, after a donor dies or goes under the knife, that patient must take powerful immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.
In short, it's an imperfect solution. But 3D printing, which has already begun to revolutionize manufacturing, may be the solution.
Currently, 3D printing makes prototypes in metal and polymer, but recent advances in cell culturing mean that a "prototype" can be made of cells. A patient's own stem cells could be programmed to develop into liver cells, for instance, and those liver cells can be "printed" in a soup and developed into a laboratory-grown liver, ready for implantation.
All at a stroke, waiting lists and the risks of organ rejection are done away with, replaced by a theoretically limitless supply of tailor-made organs. Beyond the vital, lifesaving potential of these organs, 3D printing will allow functional human organs to be studied and worked on by medical students, giving these doctors-in-training a real edge over their predecessors.
In fact, 3D printing technology is going to have near-limitless spinoffs in these new medical and technological applications. It will act as a wellspring for many novel techniques.