3D Printed Lungs Will Improve the Outlook for Asbestos-Related Illnesses

by Mitch Bossart, Industry Writer for GoEngineer

The outlook of medicine and public health may be significantly improved by 3D-printed implants for afflicted patients.

For example, 3D-printed lungs have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused illnesses, providing relief for tens of thousands of patients.

CT scan showing a left sided mesothelioma with an enlarged mediastinal lymph node. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesothelioma

3D Printing Using Human Cells

Instead of using polymers or powdery metals, 3D-printed lungs can be made of biological ink grown from human cells in a petri dish. By using cells from the person who needs the transplant, doctors can completely negate the risk of organ rejection or the issues around blood typing. An entire field, called bioprinting, has sprung up around this useful technology.


3D printing has a significant advantage in timeliness. Typically, patients waiting for a skin graft or a whole lung must wait until someone donates what they need. In some cases, the wait may take several years. Also, critical cases often need a transplant quickly. Imagine a future where synthetic lungs are 3D-printed in an afternoon, and transplant lists become a thing of the past.

What a blessed relief that would be to thousands of people!

Hope for Cancer Patients

3D-printed lungs could have a unique advantage for people diagnosed with a deadly cancer such as mesothelioma, which causes progressive scarring in the lungs that makes breathing difficult and eventually impossible.

For other cancers, such as from asbestos exposure that causes scarring in the lungs indefinitely, transplantable organs could be replaced as necessary, prolonging life and alleviating pain.

Future Opportunities

Even though the technology is not yet developed to the point of practical use, 3D-printed lungs—or other organs—offer countless opportunities. Bioprinting eliminates the wait for organ donation and reduces the chance of organ rejection.

It is hard to estimate if or when this technology will become a viable solution but it holds promise for those in need of organ donations.


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