You Will Print Yourself a Thyroid

This is not a joke or science fiction: The first 3-D printed-organ transplant will happen in 2015. Get ready to go cyborg.

By Michal Jurgielewicz, nas-dra design and research agenda

Illustration by Gwendal le Bec

In March 2015, the first fully 3-D bio-printed organ — a thyroid gland—will be transplanted. Because of the simplicity of the organ, a scientist from Skolkovo, Russia, chose it as a perfect starting point for this emerging technology, which happens to use stem cells as printer filling.

The distinct division between living and digital matter will slowly start to blur in a number of different ways. Human organs will be digitally designed, engineered to be stronger and more efficient than our current “natural” ones. The ability to rebuild and replace integral parts of the human body will not only save lives but act as preventive medicine, too. The army has already started testing and developing improved organs for soldiers, such as ears and eyes. And the sports industry will be next: Athletes will replace muscles or lungs to achieve better results.

The building and design industries will be revolutionized as well—architectural materials will become the next 3-D bio-printed “organs.” Facade panels or even whole walls will be designed and engineered to work like organic matter, harvesting rainwater or solar energy with chemical processes. Post-disciplinary teams will replace homogenous architectural or urban planning practices and deliver biologically responding solutions where each urban component, from buildings to roads, will be fully integrated to work like an ecosystem.

2015 will be a year of living matter in the digital age.

Michal Jurgielewicz is an architect for NAS-DRA in Katowice, Poland.

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