3D Bioprinted Organs: Future of Healthcare
Family members started panicking once they heard their beloved one needed an organ replacement, but not the doctor. He said, nothing to worry. Our 3D Bioprinting machine will create the new organ you need. Though we have not yet reached this day, but we are very close. There has been considerable and commendable progress in the field of bioprinting in terms of creating transplantable tissues in regenerative medicine.
Using 3D bioprinting, researchers have already constructed several different tissues including bone, skin, cartilage, muscle, tracheal splints and neural. Organovo, one of the most active companies in the 3D bioprinting, has developed a bioprinting process that takes cells from donor organs and turns it into a printable bio-ink. The company has successfully bioprinted liver and kidney tissues. These tissues would be now used to test drugs. This in itself is a milestone as most of the drug studies are carried out using animal models which many a times leads to erroneous and inconclusive results.
3D bioprinting was started by Dr. Anthony Atala from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In 2006, Atala published an article in Lancet where he described how he has been successful in creating bioengineered bladders. It was the first time lab-grown organs had been successfully transplanted in humans. The success point comes from the fact that this 3D bioprinted bladder which was made to replace patient Luke Massella’s defective bladder in 2004 is still functional even after 14 years !.
Despite all these successful studies and research efforts, there still prevails lot many challenges before we get to hear about a fully functional vital organ like kidney, liver or heart. Speed is indeed a hurdle to the fabrication of large 3D bioprinted organs. Due to the high resolution of 3D bioprinting, large constructs may require hours to complete. The problem here is in maintaining the cells in a physiological environment throughout the long printing process. Another challenge is that the 3D constructs need to be sufficiently stable and mechanically rigid to ensure successful transplantation. Need for vasculature is another big hurdle. Once inside the body organ created need to support vascularization to provide the cells with sufficient nutrition, growth factors, oxygen and remove waste. In addition to technical challenges, there are several ethical problems too involved in 3D bioprinting.