In a recent talk at TEDx Midwest, bioprinting expert Benjamin Harris stated that he believes the day when we see transplantable, full size 3D printed organs isn’t that far off.
Over the course of the last decade Dr. Harrison and his colleagues at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have been developing a 3D printer that can print both artificial scaffolds and living cells simultaneously for use in the replacement of ears, noses and even bones.
While that printer represents a major advancement in the state of bioprinting, a second machine in development at the Institute has been used to print skin cells onto burn wounds. Through the use of 3D mapping technology researchers can determine the size and depth of cellular material needed to cover a wound and print a precisely tailored skin graft.
In a third endeavor, Institute researchers have also been able to print micro-organs that work like human heart, liver, lungs and blood vessels. In the future scientists will connect all of these organs together into a single system and use sensors to monitor its overall health. If successful, researchers will then begin scaling up their printed organs. In fact, Wake Forest scientists say they’re already “working on creating solid organ implants.”
With well over 120,000 people on the US organ transplant list, long waits and increasing demand are making the current organ transplant system look like a farce. If the work of Dr. Harrison and his colleagues around the globe were to be successful, however, waiting for organ transplants might not take months or years. Organs custom built for each patient could be printed in a matter of hours or days, saving lives and quickly improving patients’ quality of life.
Image and Video Courtesy of TEDx