What if doctors could figure out the extent of an organ damage without having to open up a patient’s body? Seems too futuristic and unbelievable, right? Well, that day is not too far off. Three dimensional printing of organs is expected to revolutionize the field of science in ways no one could have ever thought of. To learn more about this ground breaking innovation, keep reading:
Since its discovery, 3D printing has been used to create medium for cells to grow on. 3D printing, more accurately known as additive manufacturing is now being applied in the field of medicine to replicate living tissues and organs which can help in organ transplantation and more.
How is 3D printing of organs done?
In a typical 3D printing process:
- Doctors take a scan of the organ(s) to create a 3D blueprint.
- Cells are extracted from the patient’s body, placed in a culture and left to multiply.
- Thereafter, the 3D printer constructs the organ structure layer-by-layer to form a cell scaffold.
- The cells which had been left to multiply are then pipetted down on the scaffold.
- This is then incubated to produce a fully functioning organ.
Another way in which 3D printing of organs is done, is by filling the print cartridges of the modified inkjet printers with a suspension of living cells and a smart gel. The mixture is printed into a mould created from the blueprint. Eventually, the cells fuse together and form tissues. The gel is washed away leaving behind nothing but a functioning organ of living tissues.
Scope of 3D printing of organs
The scope of 3D printed organs is huge. For one, patients will not have to wait endlessly for donor organs, and their treatment can happen sooner. Further, if developed and implemented properly the procedure can find more applications than just organ transplantation. Doctors can scan the defaulting organs to create a dummy model that looks just like the organ of that particular patient. This will help them identify quicker and more effective ways of surgery. For example, if there is a heart surgery to be done, the doctors wouldn’t know exactly what state the heart is in , unless they open up the person. But with 3D printing, they can get create an exact model of the patient’s heart and understand its condition and identify the most effective method of surgery. This will also reduce chances of slips, misses and revision surgeries.
3D printing of organs can also be employed in drug and clinical trials. Since these are essentially living tissues, they will respond to drugs even without being present in a functioning human body. The procedure may eventually exempt animals from being used in clinical trials as well.
3D printing of organs really do seem to be the future of medicine. A lot of research and implementation has already happened, a lot more is in process but there is still a long way to go. We’re positive that this procedure has every potential to begin a new era in science.