x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Printable parts

Science has taken another leap forward with news that researchers have found a way to convert water droplets into three-dimensional objects.

Sometimes science seems more surreal than any fiction. Imagine a world in which we can "print" synthetic human tissue from a computer. Amazingly, that day may be upon us.

Three-dimensional "printing" of objects has been around for some time; mostly it has seemed to be little more than a parlour trick. But now Oxford University scientists have found a way to print tens of thousands of water droplets, each coated with fatlike lipids like the membranes around human cells. These can then be arranged in three-dimensional structures, the scholars report in the journal Science, in arrangements defined on a computer.

The technology is still very far from printing up replacement human organs - or anything else really useful - on demand, but this is unmistakably a step forward.

Nobody can say if this specific project will lead to spectacular results, or be a dead end. But whatever comes next, this report reminds us again that this is an exciting time for the sciences.