3D printing body part replacements seen in hospitals of the future

Imagine a hospital where broken bones and damaged tissue can be replicated and replaced by 3D printed body parts. That is the vision of Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Dr Mia Woodruff. Dr Woodruff, who leads the Biomaterials and Tissue Morphology Group at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, has been spearheading research into the area for the past few years. Her work could potentially help future hospital patients twofold: by allowing surgeons to print 3D models of areas of the body they are to operate on; and printing a "scaffold" that can be implanted as a replacement. The research, which uses a biofabrication machine that imparts tens of thousands of volts and robotic precision to produce 3D plastic scaffolds out of fibers much thinner than a human hair, will be on display at Robotronica today at QUT's Gardens Point campus. "Our hospital of the future from out point of view is going to have the patient go into hospital, you scan them and immediately next to that operating table you can print them that scaffold," Dr Woodruff said. "If we have a company [that] would want us to build a million of these machines, it could be in every hospital within the next five years, easily. The technology is there." Dr Woodruff said a scaffold had to emulate exactly the structure of the tissue it was replacing
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