We're seeing more and more examples of scientists printing body parts; as strange as this may sound it is becoming a popular science. The first examples were seen by a group of scientists at Cornell who successfully used 3D printing technology to model the human ear out of silicone.

Most examples of 3D printing have so far been confined to skin grafts, ears, etc, but a team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have gone a little deeper. The group of researchers have successfully created a hybrid printer which can construct cartilage which can eventually be implanted into a specific region of the body to aid repair.

The team cleverly combined an electrospinning device with an inkjet printer to achieve these results; by bringing these two instruments together they were able to encourage a pairing of biomaterials which promote cell growth together with polymeric materials which contribute to the additional strength component in the new cartilage material.

Results are still confined to the lab, but the authors of the paper [Xu et al., Biofabrication (2013), 5, DOI:10.1088/1758-5082/5/1/015001], see a time where surgeons will be able to simply scan a body part to produce an implant that is a perfect match and so speed up and ensure a completely recovery for the patient.