There's a reason 3-D printing is considered a technology of the future. Using thin layers of structural material that can come together to form a solid end product, printers can produce everything from jewelry to on-demand car parts. (It can also print objects that seem vaguely impossible: my older brother, a scientist, has created 3-D printed toys and gadgets with complex internal moving parts that couldn't viably be made by hand.) However, it's at the intersection between 3-D printing technology and biology that things start to get interesting — and decidedly sci-fi. Following on the heels of 3-D printed prosthetics, skin, and ears, scientists at Northwestern University were able to 3-D print a viable ovary that restored fertility in mice. Now, they're saying the future of human pregnancy might be 3-D printed ovaries.
The idea of "organ printing" — using biological materials to be able to produce organs on demand for people in need for new ones — would be a massive boon for the huge transplant waiting lists worldwide; but actually printing something that functions as a viable organ, rather than growing it in a lab, has its own challenges, because organs have extremely complex internal structures. But this new breakthrough might provide a different view, as well as hope for women in the future with severe infertility problems.