It may sound a little like Frankenstein, but scientists are working on being able to use 3-D printing technology to create human organs. Today’s post is going to make heavy use of video, but in this case, a video clip is worth a thousand words.
For background, check out this 3-year old TED talk and then come back for an update.
At the University of Louisville, researchers are working on 3-D printing a human heart.
Creating a whole new heart is years away, but heart valves are already being produced. And 3-D printing is helping surgeons prepare for complicated heart surgery.
“Using MRI scan data, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City 3D printed a copy of the child’s heart, which was both riddled with holes and structured unusually.
Surgery was going to be complicated and dangerous, but this 3D printed heart [model] provided the surgeons the opportunity to study the organ, and develop a detailed surgery strategy.”
Companies like Organovo are producing human tissue samples for the testing of new drugs.
Liver toxicity is a key concern for any new drug and Organovo is selling samples of human liver tissue to drug companies for their use in testing possible drugs. http://ir.organovo.com/news/press-releases/press-releases-details/2014/Organovo-Announces-Commercial-Release-of-the-exVive3D-Human-Liver-Tissue/
Aspect Biosystems in Canada http://aspectbiosystems.com/ is also working on creating 3-D human tissue samples.
Research is underway on a number of human organs. The goal is to use a patient’s own cells to grow the new tissue and organs that will be transplanted back into the patient’s body. One of the difficulties is including blood vessels in those organs. Dr. Jennifer Lewis at Harvard has now come up with a way to 3-D print with multiple cell types including the cells that form blood vessels. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/525161/artificial-organs-may-finally-get-a-blood-supply/ She was able to create blood vessels down to 75 micrometers in diameter. Technology is not yet available to get down to true human capillaries which average only 8 microns in diameter. That size is necessary for good oxygen transfer from the red blood cells to the surrounding tissue.