The cyborg maker from Berlin

The cyborg maker from Berlin

Admittedly, the title might sound a bit sensational, but it's really not so far from the truth. There's no doubt that contemporary life already resembles a science fiction movie in many respects. When Captain Kirk made contact with Spock or McCoy from the Enterprise in the 60s, he used a hand-held device that was astonishingly similar to a smartphone. The only difference was that the Captain couldn't play Angry Birds, surf the web, or control his washing machine with his upgraded walkie talkie. We can do that today, and we're completely nonplussed by it all. Does that count as science fiction?

Probably, in a few years or decades, we'll be every bit as relaxed with the idea that human organs are created via 3D printing. If you're liver is worn out, it won't be a problem: we'll print you a new one. Humanity as its own godlike creator - a blessing or a curse? Biological research scientist, Lutz Kloke, did not concern himself with this ethical dilemma. He is a man with a practical approach to things and, in the laboratory of his Berlin-based start-up, Cellbrick, he researches future technologies. He develops 3D printers that can print organs from human cells. This future-oriented technology is known as "bio printing.". The term engenders visions of dark basement vaults and Frankenstein-like machinations Certainly, Frankenstein's bad experiences with artificial life are well known.

However, unlike Frankenstein's workshop, Lutz Kloke's laboratory is filled with clinical, white sterility; no monster lies, cobbled-together, on the table. Instead, a human liver and placenta are growing in antiseptic conditions: or, rather, they are being printed. A CAD file developed by Cellbrick makes it possible, being used by the printer as a template for the physical model. We still have a long way to go until cyborgs are a reality, but we're already heading in that direction. It will be a while before Kloke's printer can produce transplantable organs for use as human spare parts. However, it's already possible to use these organs to test medicines in Petri dishes. A medical revolution, which could make human and animal expeirments unnecessary in the near future.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that Cellbrick won a highly endowed founders' prize in 2016. Even more importantly for Lutz Kloke, however, is the fact that he has been able to secure some well known institutions and corporations as pilot customers. These collaborations should result in the development of new use cases, with individual development projects to follow. Probably Spock, as an android, would find the project "fascinating."


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Published : 11/26/2015 11:09:32