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Eyes and Ears 3D-Printed From Flesh Could Boost Our Senses

Eyes and Ears 3D-Printed From Flesh Could Boost Our Senses

Written by David

November 21, 2018

Engineer Michael McAlpine shows off his new bionic peepers. Electronics often don’t mesh well with flesh and blood. Cochlear implants can irritate the scalp; pacemaker wires dislodge; VR headsets weigh heavily on the face. That’s why, for the past six years, Michael McAlpine has been Frankensteining alternatives. A mechanical engineer at the University of Minnesota, he creates prototypes of bionic body parts with nice, soft components—some of them alive. The key to his electro-organic organs is his custom-made 3D printer , which McAlpine loads with silicones, metals, and human cells sourced from the university’s med school. (They come in a gel-like culture so they stay happy and functional, he says, while they’re handled.) His 3D-printed “ear,” made by enveloping a coil antenna in living matter, requires electrically conductive silver nanoparticles and cartilage-forming cells, while his “spinal cord” calls for neuron-forming cells and a translucent column of silicone. Whatever the […]


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