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3D-printing could soon bring about an end to animal abuse in drug testing, according to bioengineering expert Alan Faulkner-Jones. Speaking at the 3D Printshow Hospital in London, the Heriot Watt University researcher said that 3D-printed human cells could eliminate the need to test new drugs on animals as soon as 2018.
Using a bio-printer hacked together from a MakerBot printer, Faulkner-Jones demonstrated how human stem cells can be printed into micro-tissues and micro-organs. These miniature biological systems, otherwise known as systems-on-a-chip, not only resemble humans genetically, but they also respond as if it is a living miniature organ. This allows for more effective drugs tests that show side effects first hand.
Faulkner-Jones believes the technology could replace cruel and often inaccurate animal testing within five years. In addition to sparing animals, this technology could mitigate the issue of having to develop medicines that work perfectly on animals before they can be tested on humans, which slows down the process.
What’s more, it may also become possible to personalize drugs by testing them with the cells of the person who actually needs them. Creating specific micro-tissues of that person would help doctors replicate their unique response to drugs and other medical treatments.