This year has seen rapid progress in the field of 3D Organ Printing, and shows no sign of slowing as we head into 2017. Earlier in the year researchers at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced they had successfully implanted 3D printed organs into a variety of animals. Anthony Atala, MD, director at Wake Forest noted that, “We make ears the size of baby ears. We make jawbones the size of human jawbones. We are printing all kinds of things.” The process Wake Forest has been perfecting is particularly effective because they can print both the necessary scaffolding and cell structure at the same time. This allows tissue to be shaped into almost any possible shape.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australia’s Minister for Health Cameron Dick recently announced a new bio-fabrication facility that will bring together medicine, science, and engineering to 3D print-on-demand individual tissue to replace or patch broken bones or cartilage.
“It will be the first time a biomanufacturing institute will be co-located with a high-level hospital. Researchers, scientists, nurses and doctors will all be working together to deliver the best outcome for patients. Our vision for healthcare is that the biofabrication institute will pave the way for 3D printers to sit in operating theatres, ready to print tissue as needed, in our hospitals of the future.”
However, the full printing of organs is still a ways off. Associate Professor Mia Woodruff of the QUT Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology Group explains, “We are not going to be able to 3D print an organ tomorrow but what we are able to do is bring together the researchers, the clinicians, the patients, the engineers, the intellect and industry partners to be able for us to develop new technology to the level where it can be translated into the clinic. This is where you are able to create these artificial organs in the future.”
Not only will 3D printing help with eliminating the chance of tissue rejection, but it could offer dramatic hope to patients on organ-donor waiting lists.
While living 3D organs have yet to start rolling off the printer, 3D printing company Whiteclouds has already begun offering a service to print an exact 3D replica of your own organs prior to surgery. These colored, very precise 3D renderings are very helpful to both patients and HCPs as they prepare for a procedure. The service called “3DyourSCAN” can turn around a fully rendered print in as little as 24 hours. “If you put a 3D model of a patient in the hands of a surgeon, they immediately realize the value. It helps in the education of patient and family, training of residents and fellows, and planning surgical approaches. It is the ultimate in patient-specific imaging,” said Edward P. Quigley III, MD, PhD from the University of Utah Radiology, Advanced Visualization and 3D Printing team.
Further out on the horizon, leading-edge researchers at OxSyiBio are exploring the printing of synthetic organs that currently don’t exist but would be tailored to perform some specific medical function. For example, if you have high blood pressure, an organ could be printed and implanted that would manufacture and secrete an ACE inhibitor directly into your bloodstream.
After several years of being celebrated in the “future tech” journals, 3D printing of organs is now poised to make dramatic strides in the next 24-36 months – moving from small research centers into routine medical practice. The surprising speed of this transition will be driven by continuous advances in the actual printing process, greater appreciation for the potential impact on patient outcomes, as well as growing expertise and collaboration at 3D print centers around the world.
Breakthrough in 3D printing:
Darien-cavanaugh. “3D-Printed Organs May Become Reality Soon As Australian Hospital Prepares First ‘Biofabrication’ Center.” The Inquisitr News. N.p., 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
Scott, Clare. “Wake Forest Researchers Successfully Implant Living, Functional 3D Printed Human Tissue Into Animals.” 3DPrint.com. N.p., 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.