Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.
The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.
This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.Currently focused on growing cartilage and skin cells suitable for testing drugs and cosmetics, Erik, 28, believes that within 20 years it could be used to produce organs that are actually fit for human implantation.
Erik is the chief executive and co-founder of a small Swedish company called Cellink. Founded in Gothenburg only a year ago, it is a world leader in bioprinting, and Erik has big ambitions.