Tag Archives: organ

Artificial Organs?

Imagine if you or someone you know desperately needed an organ transplant and had to wait months to years for a chance to receive one. This is currently happening to people all over the world and according to the Globe and Mail the average wait transplant wait time in British Columbia is 2,145 days, which is far greater than the national average of 1,258 days. Such a long wait could be disastrous for patients and could even prove fatal if they don’t get a transplant in time. But what if there was a solution to this problem? This brings in the concept of human created artificial organs. As the name suggests artificial organs are created in synthetically using newly discovered scientific methods.

From Wikipedia Commons

The first case of a synthetic organ transplant happened in July 2011, when Swedish surgeons implanted the first synthetic trachea in a 36 year old cancer patient. The trachea was created to be nearly identical to the patient’s original organ by using a 3D laser scan and then using that they were able to craft a nearly identical organ. They also immersed the synthetic wind pipe in a stem cell solution which was created from the patient’s bone marrow.  A major benefit from this new method is that antirejection drugs are no longer required since the immune system would recognize the organ and would not attack it.

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Also other body parts could be replaced, for example the jaw bone for an 83 year old woman was replaced in 2012. The artificial jaw bone was created using a 3D printer based on a scan of her original bone that was damaged due to a bone infection. This scan was then used in a 3D printer and the new jaw was created out of titanium.

Although we are currently unable to replace vital organs such as kidneys, we may be able to do it in the future as science is always advancing and new discoveries are made everyday.

By: Justin

3-D Printers: Hope or hype?

        Over the past few years, hype over 3-D printing has continued to grow. With each new revelation comes increased anticipation of the industry’s potential, now including even the biomedical field. The media reports of printers designed to create almost unbelievable possibilities from live tissues, bone substitutes, to the potential of organs. However, how reputable are these claims?  How is this technology even possible? Well to start, simply by changing the ink.

A Standard Public 3-D Printer
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The “Ink” is Alive

        Genuine cells have been printed and successfully cultured into tissues through the use of “bio-ink”. This ink contains live cells in a formulation of matrix molecules. During printing, the cells are layered upon each other in an additive procedure, eventually resulting in a 3-D structure. Why bother “printing” out the cells? The appeal of 3-D printers is in the efficiency. They save countless hours of manual labour normally needed to layer a simple tissue, let alone an organ.

Beyond In-Vitro

      The BioPen goes beyond the standard of printing tissues onto slides. The handheld printer literally “draws” a framework onto damaged or missing pieces of bone. Initially, the pen deposits modified ink, a gel made from biopolymers and live cells, onto the targeted area. The notion is that by combining this with regenerative stem cell therapy, the polymers will eventually degrade and be replaced by new tissue. The BioPen would allow surgeons to deliver cells instantly and accurately as a temporary substitute.

Below is a short clip showing the pen in action, courtesy of the Australian Research Council of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES).

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Tailor Made Organs?

          3-D printing has large implications for the future of regenerative medicine, even if we are not quite there yet. This technology would reduce the demand for organ and tissue transplants, notorious for their long wait lists. Though it’s not near ready for clinical use, the bio-printing company Organovo claims that they will unveil the first 3-D printed liver by the end of 2014.

Cancerous liver cells: a common reason for the high demand of transplants
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Hope

         3-D printing continues to rapidly evolve as it becomes more readily available in many fields. The 3-D biomedical industry is still in its initial stages, as researchers will have to overcome barriers to make it more efficient and economically feasible. Regardless, presentations have already demonstrated its viability, from the printing of live tissues to the BioPen’s application into orthopedic surgery. Ultimately, the potential of 3-D printing is likely to have large further implications for not only the medical industry, but society in general.

-Richelle Eger


“BioPen to Rewrite Orthopaedic Implants Surgery.” University of Wollongong.              N.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. “Need different types of tissue? Just print them.”                        ScienceDaily, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Institute of Physics. “3-D tissue printing: Cells from the eye inkjet-printed for the          first time.” ScienceDaily, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Mearian, Lucas. “The First 3D Printed Organ – a Liver – Is Expected in 2014.”                    Computerworld. 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.