3D bioprinting technology is still in its beginning stages, and will probably stay in its beginning stages for quite a while in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn't mean that we can't already use it to make the world better.
3D bioprinting refers to using living cells and tissue to create objects or even makeshift organs that could be safely implanted in people and animals.
The field actually reaches beyond the borders of that definition, but as far as the common man is concerned, that is the heart of it.
A new startup company based in Seattle believes they can use 3D bioprinting to save the world's population of rhinos.
3D bioprinted rhino horns
The startup, called Pembient, has come up with a way to fabricate rhino horn and elephant ivory at prices below the current levels.
So it's not so much a way to 3D print horn implants for rhinos as it is 3D printing artificial ones that can be used instead of the real thing.
Turns out that rhinos are in real danger of being poached to extinction due to how expensive real horns taken from their corpses are.
It's kind of the same situation as the one involving elephants and their tusks, only apparently worse at the moment.
According to Pembient, 45% of the users of rhino horns would be willing to accept rhino horn made in a lab, using their synthesized rhino horn powder.
Rhino horns and why they are getting rhinos killed
Rhino horns are used to make jambiya daggers, given to Muslim boys in Yemen when they turn 12 years old. An example of a wildlife-endangering tradition if ever there was one.
The horns are also used in carvings that catch hefty prices among collectors of the wealthy. Some cultures even grind the horns into powder to use in curing diseases, even though science has thoroughly disproved the “cure all” status of the substance. Unless magic is real, but we'll let shadow organizations have it out over whether or not that's true.
Either way, demand for rhino horns is large enough that poachers have been hunting and killing them with such zeal that some species are already extinct and the rest are endangered. A pound fetches thirty grand on the black market, if you can believe it.