Once just a pipe-dream - the like of which our favourite science-fiction shows made their own - nano-engineers at the University of California have managed to create technology that can replicate micro-scale 3D structures out of bio-compatible hydrogels, and it can all be done in seconds, paving the way toward 'printable' body tissue.
Still in the early phases, mind, the near-future goals of such technology is to use it to augment other research projects including stem cell research. In the long term however, it is hoped such research will prove instrumental in making it possible to essentially 'repair' the body following a traumatic event, such as a heart attack, through merely printing off replacement tissue. In biological terms the technology is still at the typewriter stage of printing, and it’d be a long time before we can see new hearts rolling out of a printer in an OR, but it lays the foundations of some very interesting work to come.
Image Credit: Biomedical Nanotechnology Laboratory, Chen Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.