• Scott Millar

Bespoke Bodies - The Future of Human Repair and Regeneration

Technology has fused with biology to be able to achieve some truely remarkable things. From spray on skin to 3D printed stem cells, an expert panel of judges spoke at the World Science Festival Brisbane about the future for humans in repair and regeneration.

To talk all things regenerative medicine, ABC Science Journalist Robyn Williams joined an expert panel with Professors Fiona Wood, Damien Harkin, Gordon Wallace and David Franklin. 

To kick off the evening, the panel were quick to distinguish between regeneration and repair establishing that the human body naturally regenerates. Our skin regenerates every 6 to 8 weeks, our oculus (eyes) surface regenerates every 10 days and our bones are constantly remodelling. It is interesting to note however that children heal much faster than adults, this due to the adult stem cells being much more specified and the younger stem cells being much more versatile. Professor Wood did however add that despite this, children scar much more easily than adults.

With Fiona’s background in scaring treatments, in particular her development of spray-on skin and her treatments in the immediate aftermath of the Bali bombings, the conversation quickly turned to the research being done in that field. The panel discussed how to develop solutions such as Fiona’s, they must first truely understand how burns and scars work, as well as how they impact the individual. Fiona elaborated on how once you understand that, it is then up to you as the researcher to develop the simplest solution possible. This allows Fiona and her team to churn through cases quickly and effectively. Building a solid knowledge foundation is key!

Conversations then turned to Professor Gordon Wallace and the work he is doing in the 3D printing of nerves and muscles, and yes it is real! As the New South Wales Scientist of the year, Gordon was able to fuse the emerging 3D printing technologies with artificially generated stem cells to 3D print cartilage. 

Gordon then went on to talk about how the precise nature of 3D printing now allows researchers to print cartilage layer by layer and even doing this by printing living STEM cells.

The panel did a fantastic job at translating these complex methods and concepts into easy to understand conversation for the audience as they inspired the next generation of researchers and surgeons.