Many doctors are using 3D-printed replicas of human organs to practice for complex surgeries like transplants.
Technology is still expensive, but Knowable Magazine reports that as 3D printing gets cheaper, rehearsing a surgery on a 3D-printed replica of a specific patient's organ could become the norm rather than the exception — a bizarre example of how emerging technology could make personalized medicine cheaper and safer for more patients.
As these organs become more realistic, they can help surgeons prepare for more urgent surgeries such as time-sensitive tumor removals. University of Rochester urologist told Knowable Magazine that he was inspired to create a realistic model kidney so that surgeons would be able to practice avoiding the organ's many blood vessels.
"I just wanted something that looks like a kidney that bleeds," he said. "The surgeon is able to do the procedure from the beginning to the very end."
While the actual technology seems to be progressing rapidly, the insurance industry and policymakers are lagging behind.
Knowable Magazine reports that insurance companies don't cover patient-specific models, and only one software package for 3D printing organs has been approved by the FDA thus far.
READ MORE: How 3-D printing could help shape surgery [Knowable Magazine]
More on 3D-printed organs: Researchers Create First Ever 3D-Printed Heart Using Human Tissue