At any given time, there are roughly 400 U.S. citizens waiting for a heart transplant. If the geographic boundaries are expanded, the number of individuals needing heart transplants at any given time across the globe is nearly 4,000. What if this number could be reduced through a combination of medical and technological advances that would allow for hearts to be built or more specifically, printed? This might be a reality in coming decades as biomedical engineers are finding new ways to manipulate living tissue.

Recent innovations by U.S. scientists are helping what once seemed to be an impossible feat to become a reality through the use of human collagen cells and a newly established 3D printing technique. Just this past week Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering, published his research surrounding a new bio-printing method which can take liquid collagen and, with the use of a mold, turn it into a solidified structure. Currently, research has focused on the use of collagen to create small structures in the human heart.

Although 3D printing has been used by the medical field for the last five years, its main function up until now has been as a planning and practicing tool. Since 2015, physicians have been practicing surgical procedures on 3D printed body structures to give them an idea of how patients with unique medical issues may respond to certain operations or techniques. Successful practice surgeries with these printed models have become important tools in setting a patient’s mind at ease prior to an operation.

While Feinberg’s new method, fondly named, FRESH, is impressive, it is the methodology’s limitless potential that has the medical world talking. On a larger scale FRESH could potentially create whole organs. Experimentation with the types of cells used could even be done with collagen being the starting point and other human tissues being options in the future. Experimentation of different tissue in place of collagen could result in the creation of parts or entire organize which more closely resemble those that are natural.

Are you interested in playing an active role in the future of medicine? A rotation with AMO can help you towards this goal. Click here to explore the rotations offered and apply to those that fit your unique interests.