The inception of innovative technology in the biomedical engineering field has led scientists to be able to 3D print tissues, organs, and cells. This breakthrough is called 3D bioprinting, and although it is a new technology, a lot of progress has been made, and there is a very promising and bright future in this field to be able to print fully functional and transplantable organs.
Research is being conducted on printing artificial hearts, kidneys, and liver structures. Organs, such as liver, have been printed but are not suitable for transplantation yet. They are being used for experimentation and drug testing in the hope that these organs will soon be safe to transplant into humans.
3D printed organs and tissues are being transplanted into animals such as mice to determine the effect of living with these printed organs. Because the organs contain the patient’s own cells, there is a lower chance of the body rejecting the transplant. This also means immune system suppressants are not needed after surgery, which reduces the list of side effects associated with transplant.
Being able to print organs and tissues that are able to be transplanted into patients will solve the crisis of the shortage of organ donors. Since the initial invention of 3D printing through “additive manufacture,” more and more applications for 3D printing have been found and costs of buying and using the machines have dropped, making 3D printing more accessible.
With 3D printed organs, organ transplants will be more frequent and more successful than they are now. With thousands of people on waiting lists for organ donors, this technology has the potential to save many lives. People will not need to give up an organ for someone in need of a transplant, when a 3D printed organ can be made to fit and match perfectly.
Although it is estimated to take 7 more years and $40 million of testing to ensure complete functioning of the organs, the ability to mass produce organs in need will save lives, and possibly even change the human race forever.