Nowadays, 3D printing fever is transmitted widely, gaining more and more ground worldwide. With the press of a button, you can create now whatever comes in your mind. From plastic toys to bicycles, cars, and even concrete houses. The future never seemed brighter. Science has gotten to the point where almost anything is possible. Now, taking the 3D revolution one step further in exploring and broadening its limits, it is even moving towards medicine and body parts. Could 3D printed organs be on the way?
Are 3D printed organs a possibility (photo source: Unsplash)?
3D Printing, a Revolutionary Field
It’s known, for example, that many doctors already started using 3D printers to recreate human organs, dental implants, prosthetics, models, and so on, in order to have some practice before actually doing a procedure on a real patient. But what we haven’t really heard before is that some researchers came up with such a breakthrough that they made it possible to “print” and reproduce human cells rapidly which can form actual human tissues afterward.
Obviously, nobody has created fully functioning human organs yet, but they sure are getting closer. Scientists are already making pieces of tissue that can be used in various ways, such as testing drugs and designing methods to overcome the challenges of recreating the body’s complex biology.
Printing cells and biomaterials is not just technology. In order to do this right, specific input from cell biologists, engineers, developmental biologists, etc. is needed.
Pieces of 3d printed tissue are already being tested, (photo source: Pixabay)
So far, only mini organoids and microfluidic models of tissues, have been printed. Such models have started being used by pharmaceutical companies to test drugs before moving on to animal studies and eventually clinical trials.
Nevertheless, scientists haven’t managed yet to recreate fully functional organs, quite similar to the actual human tissues, but the very first attempts are a fact.
We have, for instance, some tryouts of 3D printed ears. Researchers have already reported transplanting 3D printed ears onto children with birth defects that left their ears underdeveloped.
3D printing revolutionizes the field of medicine (photo source: Pixabay)
3D Printed Organs: Hope for the Future
The optimum result of this field would be to be able to reconstruct cells that a patient’s immune system could recognize as its very own, to avoid immune rejection. Such organs could potentially be built from patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells.
At this moment, researchers have created a certain tissue type that mimics portions of particular organs but haven’t managed to replicate the complexity or cell density of a full organ. But it’s possible that in some patients, even a patch would be an effective treatment. A study has shown, for instance, that transplanted patches of 3D printed liver cells successfully engrafted in a mouse model of a genetic liver disease which actually suggested an improvement in its liver function.
The progress in the field of technology is outstanding, (photo source: Pixabay)
Technology is getting to a point where there is almost no limit, so as long as creative people exist we can only go forward!
Source used for this article: On the Road to 3-D Printed Organs, by Yasinski Emma
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