It might sound like something from the latest sci-fi creation of J J Abrams, but scientists have been playing around with printing human organs for a number of years now.
From skin to complicated builds like hearts, the dream is to '3D print' a working organ to immediately transplant it into a patient. While replicating the tiny, intricate elements of human body bits like blood vessels has always proved tricky, a new printing technique could soon see teams print 3D organs with human tissue.
A team of engineers has devised a new technique that allows "living cells" to be pumped into a suspended gel. Published in the journal Science Advances, their project paper explains how this new system can print items up to 1 per cent the size of a human hair (so really, really small).
"So long as you can push a material out of a needle — and have it be trapped by the [embedding medium] — there's no limit to what you could print with," explained Thomas Angelini of the University of Florida, one of the lead authors on the paper.
In addition to printing organs, the technique could be used for making flexible electronics (think bendy phones) to human structures including vascular networks.
We imagine having to replace the "ink" on it is a little more fiddly than our old Lexmark.