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3D Bioprinting as the Future of Organ Transplants
It is estimated that approximately 900,000 deaths can annually be prevented in the United States alone when there is no organ shortage, or if transplants are not delayed and readily available for organ failure patients. Indeed, one of the leading causes of death in America was the lack of tissue transplants.
Organ transplants are key to saving lives, according to the World Health Organization. The UN Health Agency notes that these transplants are performed in 91 countries, using kidney transplants alone. A typical year has included around 66,000 Kidney transplants, 21,000 hepatitis transplants, and 6,000 cardiovascular transplants. Although organ transplants are often the only effective therapy for many conditions that are otherwise fatal, an appropriate organ shortage always exists.
While most organ transplant is still in the early stages of development, 3D bioprinting, especially in the area of skin and bone, has already proved to be successful. But, the incorporation of blood vessels into bio-printed tissue presents a considerable problem. Any living tissue needs blood; otherwise, nutrients cannot be delivered and biological cell waste removed. In a new development, scientists from the University of Rice and Baylor College of Medicine developed a new technique to make these functions possible for thin capillaries. This was used by the team of researchers to mix Endothel cells with the protein fibrin or with a semi-synthetic material called gelatin methacrylate (GelMA). The latter material can be printed 3D.
Several companies like the biotech startup SiMMo3D are interested in developing new 3D print organ technology, evaluating the latest developments in the future. Organovo is another company whose aim is to produce human functionality; it already manufactures human tissues using a proprietary 3D bio-print technology. A French 3D printing company Biomodex takes a different course to create ultra-realist organ replicas, using regular additive production to aid in training surgeons.
This revolutionary advancement could be applied in several medical and pharmaceutical fields, including replacement of organs and the testing of drugs and toxicology. 3D printing is predicted to grow at an exponential rate (around $10 billion by 2020). In order to prevent a health crisis, the problem of organ failure and transplantation has to be addressed, and the researchers may have come to a solution in the future with this rapid new and improved technology.