Afuneral home in China has started using sophisticated 3D printing technology to create missing body parts for damaged corpses.
The Longhua Funeral Parlour in Shanghai set up its printing studio to repair bodies which may have been disfigured in fires or accidents, or even to make the dead person appear better-looking than they were in life.
“It is difficult for relatives to see incomplete faces or bodies of their loved ones when they attend memorial services, and makeup cannot always sufficiently repair them,” Liu Fengming, an official with the Shanghai Funeral and Interment Service Center, affiliated with the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, told Shanghai Daily.
Bereaved families would be charged between 4,000 and 5,000 yuan (around £430 – £530) for a facial recreation, according to CRIEnglish.
3D printing creates an object by ‘printing’ layer upon layer of plastic over several hours.
The issue of 3D printing human tissues and full organs for living people is a hotly-contested technological issue. There have also been several ethical concerns raised at the idea of modifying or customising body parts to suit specific ideals.
Today, 3D printers are already revolutionising medicine with by building replacement fingers, skin, ears and bones for patients and accident victims.
On the cutting edge of this area is 3D-printed human tissue, known as “bio-printing”. This is created by using modified printer cartridges and extracted cells sourced from patient biopsies. They’re grown using standard techniques and cultured in a growth medium in dishes, allowing them to multiply.
Cells can then be loaded into cartridges and ‘printed’ into layers which naturally fuse together and mature into tissues.
- How do you 3D-print a heart?
In August 2013 the Hangzhou Dianzi University in China announced it had created biomaterial 3D printer Regenovo, which printed a small working kidney that lasted four months. Earlier that year, a two-year-old child in the US received a windpipe built with her own stem cells, and Princeton University printed a ‘bionic ear’ using a modified ink-jet printer onto a petri dish.
Ethically and morally, concerns have been raised over ensuring the quality of the organs, and who controls the right to produce them. Others claim 3D printing human components further blurs the line between man and machine, giving us the right to ‘play God’ on an unprecedented scale.
But there is no denying that bio-printing has the potential to revolutionise medicine and healthcare beyond what seemed possible even 10 years ago.