Once upon a time, the concept of 3D printing organs was only in the imaginations of mad science fiction writers. Today, breakthroughs in 3D organ printing, also called bioprinting, are moving along at a faster clip than humans have ever have imagined.
The process of 3D printing organs.
To print a liver, the bio-printer requires cells from an actual organ. First, the printer creates bio-ink from the liver cells to set up the mold. Then, syringes loaded with functional and nonfunctional liver cells alternately layer their contents into the mold, mixing with a hydro-gel to keep the form in place. Lastly, the organ is placed in an incubator and allowed to grow cells into a complete organ.
Researchers have developed DNA glues to help fuse organ tissue, and continue to discover groundbreaking methods to create human organs that will actually work. Using 3D CAT scans, printers are able to make exact matches of patients’ organs. Some doctors have used the non-functioning 3D models of their patients’ organs in order to help them perform surgery more precisely.
Some researchers predict that complete human eyes will be available in a decade or so. Human teeth are already being printed from tough materials in dentists’ offices. Soon researchers hope to use stem cells and marrow to create new bones for patients.
Scientists are still a long way from printing hearts and kidneys.
3D printers are quite capable of creating simple human tissue structures, like corneas and skin. However, organs such as livers, hearts and lungs are far more complicated to create. One major hurdle is finding a way to manufacture the vasculature of organs, which are the veins, arteries and capillaries that feed blood and nutrients to organ tissue and remove wastes.
It’s one thing to create living human tissue, but the cells must be kept alive. One group uses sugar to “keep the place” of vasculature. The idea is that the sugar will melt away, leaving space to later insert the arteries and veins.
Other issues must be worked out in order to claim success with 3D printing of organs. One vital concern is how to create nerve connections so that organs function properly. Rejection of organs is also a concern. Some researchers have used a form of B vitamin to replace plastics in 3D printers to increase the body’s acceptance of new tissue.
The Bolt Pro printer
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