Currently showing: Funding longer lives > Health/medicine

01 May 13 14:54

With life expectancy predicted to exceed 76 years by 2050, scientists are investing a lot of time and effort in understanding the determinants of healthy aging, the basic biological mechanisms and age associated diseases as well as the factors which can lead to a better quality of life in older ages in the various cultural, socio-economic and environmental situations.

Medical technology is undoubtedly one of the key factors determining longevity patterns. The healthcare industry has increasingly become a technology-rich environment, with technology supporting many parts of our lives, such as reminding people when to take treatments or when it is time to monitor one's vitals supporting behavior change, resulting in healthier diets or in better management of chronic diseases. Of course, the possibilities of what technology can do are endless and many of them are still under investigation.

One of the most interesting and promising technological advances so far is three-dimensional bioprinting, an evolving field of tissue engineering which aims in supplementing and upgrading our age-old biology by manufacturing new organs to support failing body parts.

The particular technique uses the patient's own cells and is based on computer-controlled printers which aim to reproduce body parts including skin, cartilage and bone. Such a process is not free of technical challenges, of course, as complex organs with lots of internal structures, such as the heart, have great printing difficulty. However, important steps have been taken so far including lower jaw and ear regeneration, and more recently, for the first time, lab-grown mini-livers which can actually perform most functions of one the most complex human organs.

This short video shows slivers of tissue that mimic human livers to improve drug testing, bringing lab-grown organs for transplant a step closer.

With all these important advances taking place how far do you think we are from a "mature" biotechnology?

3D printer makes world's smallest human liver

liver bio-printing

Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine


jonathan_tin - 2 May 2013, 11:35 a.m.

Thanks, Aspasia -- very interesting.

Casual reading suggests we're still pretty far from approved and applied 3D bioprinting technology. However for anyone concerned with the issues raised by this blog (eg, it could be hugely disruptive-- not just for longer lives, but also (perhaps) for making synthetic meat!

Assuming scale and popular acceptance, this associated breakthrough could do a lot for both food security and mitigating the human contribution to climate change.

For an entertaining article on THAT application:


Aspasia Angelakopoulou - 10 May 2013, 5:29 p.m.

Hi Jonathan, very interesting article indeed!!Long way until we can try the "tube burgers" :) Not sure how open I will be to this idea though(at least initially)!!

If you would like to leave a comment, please, log in.