What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

5 Steps to a 3-D Printed Eyeball

March 27, 2013, 11:23 AM
Printing_a_kidney

3-D printers are currently capable of producing usable car parts, cat-scanned reproductions of ancient Sumerian clay envelopes with letters inside, and cool-looking geometric desktop toys. That’s very exciting indeed. But what if they could print a transplantable kidney?

Biomedical 3-D printing, while still in its very early stages, promises to revolutionize medicine and save countless future lives. If you’re a billionaire philanthropist looking for a good cause to support, look no further. 

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, co-authors of Fabricated: the New World of 3-D Printing, explained some of the possibilities and the roadmap to their realization in a recent Big Think interview. “I started becoming interested in 3-D printing actually as a tool to make robots,” Lipson told us:

It gets more exciting when you think about new kinds of structures that you cannot fabricate at all using conventional manufacturing systems . . . Almost any research area that you go into in engineering you could use this thing.  And when you allow for more esoteric material like food materials and biomaterials and so forth, really our ability to fabricate instrumentation and try out new ideas is greatly accelerated. 

But the ability to print human tissue isn’t right around the corner. Melba Kurman describes it as a ladder, with the following rungs: 

1) 3-D printing from X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans:

“That’s the design file so to speak of bioprinting.  Then there is some very skilled tweaking and adjusting to turn that medical image into a viable file that can actually guide the moments of a 3-D printer.” 

CAT scan of bone
 

Physicians are currently able to print 3-D models of bone structures

2)  Artificial limbs: 

artificial limb

The company Bespoke Innovations designs and markets custom artificial limbs. 

3) Cartilage and other simple tissues:

“ If you were to climb the ladder and actually venture into living tissue, you’d get into simple body tissue like a cartilage, which tends to be made up of fewer types of cells. It doesn’t have a whole lot of vascular or blood vessels inside of it.” 

Already biomedical researchers have created artificial, implantable cartilage with a 3-D printer that uses "electrospinning," which can produce porous structures that integrate into surrounding tissue. 

4) Living Ink:

“From there the next step is to create what's called a hydrogel or some people call it a living ink.  It's a hydrogel that's actually seeded with living cells.  And there’s a lot a very interesting research going on right now about experimenting with different types of stem cells and different types of hydrogels.”

5) Complete Organs:

“If we could precisely place stem cells into the exact location and let this printed object gel come to life on its own, that's where someday there's a lot of optimism and we can actually print a complete kidney, a complete eyeball.”

--

We would be honored for you to join the Big Think delegation at TEDMED 2013, and in advance of this event, we invite you to contribute your ideas as well. Please lend your perspective by answering this question in the comments below:

"What is the most serious obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to ensure a healthy future?"


More from the Big Idea for Saturday, April 06 2013

Disruptive Technology

By removing familiar, time-honored manufacturing constraints, 3D printing sets the stage for "a cascade of downstream innovation." In their book, Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, Hod Lips... Read More…

 

5 Steps to a 3-D Printed Ey...

Newsletter: Share: