It Sounds Almost Too Easy: Print An Organ

I didn’t feel up to a movie or a “regular” TV show on Monday night. I felt like I wanted to watch something to feed my inner science geek.  I was surfing on my Apple TV & remembered as a kid how occasionally I would sit still for NOVA (if the subject was interesting enough).  I was fumbling through the offerings & saw NOVA Science NOW W/Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  Since I tend to find Neil’s programs interesting, I thought I’d check out the program, “Can We Life Forever?”.  Even though this program was from 2011 (or 2012), one of the segments had something I’d seen a lot of buzz about recently….3D Bio-printing.

I satiated my inner geek with that program but I was laughing because it seemed as if Apple had channeled my history of my computer & brain of the whole day. I had toyed with writing about bio-printing because I had found a plethora of interesting Twitter articles on the subject in my feed that seemed highly fascinating.

Some even boasted a potential to possibly negate the need for transplant in the future.

Yet, I had heard bits about this so it wasn’t new. What I had heard was that it was years off because the proper printers weren’t even established yet. So, even though I was curious & started searching, I wasn’t sure if there was anything to read up on yet. After all even this program was from 2011 or 2012 & was still mainly conjecture at that point.  I didn’t hold out much hope of updates, but I was wrong. I found quite a few interesting bits recently.

Like this NOVA Next article.  With the shortage of organs, it would be truly amazing if we could get to a point where we could bio-print and/or regenerate organs from our own DNA & stem cells. It almost feels surreal to think someone would not have to wait on a list, or risk rejection. They’d just have a new organ cultured & printed for them.

Everyone from CNN to Huffington Post has seemed to be commenting on this new technology the past few months. The outlets also give food for thought on potential ethical debates that could arise. I understand that too but don’t find it surprising as there are ethical debates in the modern day “transplant world” all the time.

The reality seemed far off when I first heard about it. Yet low-and-behold the future is here —  now.  This company, Organovo, already has a pre-clinical model for a liver.  When viewing the company’s page, it’s easy to see the value in both future human use but also in research purposes if this pre-clinical model is truly successful.

This New Scientist article illustrates how it might even supplant animal testing in research.

Like any new innovation, 3D bio-printing is not without controversy.   However I think that anything that has the potential to cut down on wait times, immunosuppressants, or may even be the next big innovation in transplantation itself is worth discussing & keeping on the radar to see how it unfolds.

Here we thought this technology was years off.  Yet, it’s arrived & not only in pre-clinical state.  The FDA just approved the first bio-printed drug so certainly more innovations will start circulating soon.

It’s estimated that a bio-printed heart might be ready for prime-time use in 10 years or less.  Amazing!

Bertalan (Berci) Meskó, MD, PhD, a medical futurist, (who I follow on Twitter), had this interesting write-up on “12 Things We Can 3D Print In Medicine Right Now.” It’s a fascinating read. I’m sure in the not-so-distant future, he’ll have more than 12 things to highlight.





One thought on “It Sounds Almost Too Easy: Print An Organ

  1. I am glad to see that they are making progress in using 3D printing for a range of medical application from prosthetic, skin, jaws, kidneys. It seems that materials and veins and other issues are being researched for solutions. A better fitting shape seems to be an advantage since a 3d model can be made and studied before printing.

    found this link informative

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s