Despite advances in healthcare and medicine, every year more patients become candidates for organ replacement. Organs that are on high demand for transplantation include kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, lung, and intestine. The recurring theme every year is the imbalance between the supply of organs and the number of patients who could benefit from transplantation. The supply of organs, which is mainly through donations, simply cannot keep up with the demand.
With laws generally prohibiting the sale and trafficking of human organs for profit, scientists in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine worked over the last few decades to develop new methods for obtaining human organs and tissues suitable for transplantation. The latest technology that is being tested is 3D printing, also known as bioprinting, to generate functional three-dimensional human organs.
Bioprinting technology, in general, involves depositing consecutive layers of adult or embryonic stem cells as “bio-ink” in a desired pattern and controlling cell aggregations, fusions and differentiations until a living three-dimensional structure with specialized compartments (such as cavities and vasculature) and specialized cell types (such as smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, connective tissue cells, lung cells or liver cells) is produced. There have been reports in the scientific literature that various groups have succeeded in printing skin, bone, blood vessel, and ears. Printing of complex organs such kidney and pancreas may be feasible in the future. According to some estimates, any printed organs will likely be different in shape from the naturally occurring organs (e.g., tube-like), due to the methodology used in printing. … (Read more)