We’ve heard of 3D printed skulls and hips, but now doctors can successfully create human organs using a 3D printer with a new technique that could save the lives of people all over the globe who aren’t lucky enough to find an organ donor in time.
Although 3D printing has been used for many other medical purposes, there’s always been one big hurdle between printing organs and actually ensuring they work inside someone’s body, and that hurdle is called vascularisation. Basically, every cell inside our organs are within a hair’s width to our blood supply. As you can imagine, translating this complex setup into a 3D printed organ is, needless to say, EXTREMELY difficult, which is why it’s taken a lot of trial and error for doctors to print everything that needs to be fully-functioning inside an organ so that it’s sophisticated enough to stand the test of time.
Scientists from the Universities of Harvard, Sydney, MIT and Stanford have been working relentlessly on overcoming this hurdle, and it looks like a viable solution may well be in sight. This week, researchers at the University of Sydney have announced that they’re developed a brand new technique that will make vascularisation possible in bio-printing. By using a network of tiny fibres, which were coated with human endothelial cells, scientists were able to remove the original print leaving lots of little oxygenated capillaries in the right place.
Although the technique isn’t likely to be widespread anytime soon, it’s ground-breaking because it could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who don’t get an organ transplant in time every year. Even those who are lucky enough to get a transplanted organ often have to take medication and live in fear that their body will reject it over time. This new method effectively tricks your body into thinking that the organ is all yours.
Image via pulmonary_pathology.