Ibrahim Ozbolat loves his work so much that once he nearly sacrificed a finger for its sake. It was in 2007 or 2008, he recalled, when he was a student who had spent many hours straight in tunnel-like concentration on the 3D bioprinter before him.
Suddenly, his hand felt like it was being squeezed into a part of the machine. “I was about to lose my finger,” Ozbolat remembered. He rushed to the doctor just in time, and a decade later, only a thin scar remains. Ozbolat, now an associate professor at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, wears it like a badge of honor.
“This is dedication,” he said.
Today, Ozbolat is in good company. Many others are staking a great deal, though perhaps not their extremities, on 3D bioprinting. Drawn by the promise of saving lives, healing people and tapping into the lucrative world of pharmaceuticals and medicine, academic researchers and biotech companies alike are flocking to this niche field, trying to usher it along a path toward the holy grail of printing solid organs like hearts or livers. Yet even their discoveries along the way are beginning to reshape and push the limits of modern medicine.