Would you be up for a meal of 3D printed meat? Would you like to wear 3D printed leather? Missouri company Modern Meadow hopes so, as it’s working on a technique to print out leather as well as meat. This bioprinting technique is expected to be feasible within two years in order to print out leather. 3D printing meat is still a long-term project.
Bioprinting is a technique which uses human cells to print out biological objects, such as body parts like lungs and hearts, but also food. However, this technique is still at its developing phase, as it takes a lot of research to develop proper ways of printing out all different components. For instance: San Diego based company Organovo claims to be able to print out a fully working liver at the end of 2014, but it will not be capable of being transported into a human body.
Nevertheless, bioprinting has potential to become a very important technique in the future. If we take a look at the advantages, then the inevitable question would rise up: why didn’t anyone start with it earlier? Andras Forgacs, CEO of Modern Meadow, explains the need for bioprinting at a conference held by Economist Ideas on March 28, 2012 (video below). As he points out, it takes more than a decade to develop a new drug and the costs per drug are on average 1,2 billion dollars. In addition, he says animal testing is unreliable and 2D human tissues in petri dishes are limiting. On the opposite of that, 3D printed tissues don’t deal with such problems and they can even provide for more predictable models.
Modern Meadow is experimenting with a technique which takes cells from donor animals that are being isolated and modified, after which they are being multiplied in a bioreactor. After a process of centrifugation and aggregation they are being fused together, after which they are being put into the bioreactor again in order to mature, which takes several weeks. With such a technique we would not have to rely on butchers for our meat, as restaurants can produce their own bioprinted variations.
Modern Meadow is now trying to move to New York’s Brooklyn, where the company aims to lease a 10,000 square feet at the BioBAT facility in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The company aims for this rehousing to be closer to the New York restaurant and fashion scenes. It’s not yet sure whether the company will or will not move to New York, as it depends on tax breaks. However, if the company would decide to move, then it will be part of the rapidly growing sector of life science in the city, as investments have gone up by 27 percent to 327 dollars – according to The MoneyTree Report from PwC and the National Venture Capital Association.
Image credits: Modern Meadow.