Biofabrication - What is it?

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Mar 14, 2016 11:00:00 AM

biobot.pngBiofabrication is a relatively new technology that allows scientists to grow body parts for patients using their own cells.  This then avoids having to use anti-rejection drugs and gives patients more enjoyable lives.  But at this moment, this is a time consuming and complex process which requires less to grow over a scaffold into their desired shape.  But, with the introduction of BioBot1, things could be about to get a lot simpler and quicker.

In their own words, "BioBot1 is a desktop 3D bioprinter that builds 3D living tissues out of human cells." There's not much more to say than that and since most of us won't be affected by this exciting, but quite specific technology, we'll leave it there.  However, what we may all be affected by is biofabricated meat and leather.

Back in 2013, the world's most expensive piece of meat made the headlines.  The $325,000 lab grown burger. sent vegetarians into a moral tailspin and left the rest of us wondering when we can get our first taste.  Well, that may happen by the end of the decade since the same scientists have now managed to reduce the cost to $11.36.  The burgers are created by taking a small amount of cow tissue, extracting the stem cells and then, within six weeks, grown them into muscle fibers.  The muscle fibers are then colored, minced, mixed with fats, and shaped.  But even if you still eschew the eating of meat, it's more than likely that you use leather.

So, if we're slowly going to stop keeping millions of live animals in small pens for us to eventually eat, then using a similar methodology, we can also stop using animals to produce animal hides.  At least that's the plan from Andras Forgacs of Modern Meadow.  As he explains in his TED Talk, the benefits of producing leather in a lab go far beyond not killing animals, it extends to reducing the whole production process to a simple design.  By growing these things in a lab, scientists can engineer the exact specifications of the leather from the color, texture, thickness, and even the shape so it's not only cows that won't need to be killed for our shoes but snakes, pigs, crocodiles and so on won't have to be sacrifice on the altar of our vanity.

So once again, 3D printers that can produce genuinely exciting things are coming to fore to deliver us from a world of pre-processed products towards one of genuine bespoke hood.

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