A great leader, Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done” (“Nelson Mandela Quotes”, n.d.).
The healthcare industry is rapidly growing and accomplishing what may seem impossible, through the use of the 3D Bioprinter. With hard work and dedication from many doctors and scientists, the recently popular three-dimensional printer has expanded from creating objects using hard materials such as plastic and metals to fabricating human tissue with live cells. The future of bioprinting has the potential to manufacture vital organs needed for transplants as it will save lives by solving the lack of organ donors and preventing the increased probability of transplant rejections.The 3D Bioprinter is capable of creating many complex organs that one needs in order to live, thus it is the most advanced printer of our generation. Using the 3D printing technique of building layer-upon-layer, the printer can recreate many complex organs. A world-renowned expert in bioprinting, Dr.
Anthony Atala and his team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said, has successfully engineered bladders, skin, urine tubes, cartilage, and kidneys that have been implanted in patients. Dr. Atala is one of the very few doctors who has successfully done a procedure using 3D printed tissue. However, many doctors are still hesitant to use bioprinting because it is still in its experimental stage (Lewis, 2017). These complex organs that were created by Dr.
Atala, are just some of the life-saving creations that the 3D Bioprinter is capable of. In order to print human tissue, the bioprinter synthesizes cells and other biomaterials to replicate natural tissue characteristics, using regular 3D printing techniques. According to Dr. Anthony Atala, the first step in creating a bio-printed organ is to take a biopsy of the patient’s organ that is needed to be replaced. A biopsy is a procedure that extracts sample cells for testing (Lewis, 2017). The cells that have the most potential to reproduce are isolated for four weeks in an oven-like incubator that replicates the same conditions as in the human body, in hope that the cells will multiply. Afterwards, the multiplied cells are treated with a liquid alginate that provides the nutrients and oxygen needed to keep them alive throughout the printing process, in order to create the ink mixture for the bioprinter.
The mixture is placed into one of the bioprinter’s ink cartridges, while, the other cartridge is filled with a hydrogel scaffold, or another type of biomaterial support such as collagen, that will be used to construct the structure of the organ tissue (“What Is Bioprinting?”, n.d.). Using multiple medical scans of the patient, the printer can then begin the process of replicating the specific organ that is needed.
The bioprinter performs almost the same as a regular three-dimensional printer as it builds the structure layer-by-layer. The bioprinter first assembles a layered scaffold from the structural biomaterial and then places the living cells in between the scaffold structure to create the tissue. Over two months of incubation, the cells grow and bind together to fabricate the fully formed tissue. Finally, the organic tissue can be transplanted to the patient to possibly save their life (Haake, 2017).
One of the many benefits of the 3D bioprinter is that the organ or tissue that is created is a perfect match for that specific patient. As previously explained, the very first step in the process of replicating tissue is to multiply more of the patient’s cells. Ilana Kelsey, a Ph.D.
student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard University, explained that with the progress of creating custom-organs comes the promise to avoid rejection due to the cells being of their own (“Custom-Made Body Parts”, 2015) As a result of the cells being of their own, the patient’s body will not reject the organ. In addition, the patient will not have to take the required dose of anti-rejection drugs that may cause some unwanted side effects such as diabetes, bone disease, and other health conditions (M., n.
d.). With help from the 3D Bioprinting, failed transplants will be a thing of the past. The lack of organ donors is one of the top concerns in the medical industry. According to the National Government Statistics about, twenty people die each day while waiting for a transplant. This is because the specific organ needed is unavailable at that time.
The National Government Statistics continues to explain that each year, the number of people on the waiting list continues to be much greater than both the number of donors and transplants (Organ Donation Statistics, n.d.). With the help from the 3D Bioprinter, the issue of lack of organ donors can be solved. Dr.
Anthony Atala says “The ultimate goal of regenerative medicine…
is to help solve the shortage of donor organs” (Cooper-White, 2015). Not only can the bioprinter solve the critical issue of lack of organ donors but it can also create it on demand. Whenever someone is on the list for a needed organ, the doctor and scientists immediately work to create a perfect customized organ (M.,n.d.
). Many patients may be concerned about the time it may take to create an organ. It takes Dr. Atala and his team, about four weeks to grow the cells and about two weeks to create the organ. They usually give themselves about eight weeks for the entire process (Haake, 2017). The amount of time it takes to bioprint an organ may be quicker than the time it takes to find an organ donor; It can take as little as 3 weeks to several months (B, n.d.).
Unfortunately, there are times where they can’t find any suitable donors. According to Dr. Ibrahim Tarik Ozbolat at the Penn State University, in 2009, 154,324 patients were registered for the human organ transplant queue in the US. Only 18% of that enormous number received the organ they needed to survive. 8,863 of them didn’t make it, while the rest of the patients kept waiting and hoping they would be the next name on the list to get the life-saving phone call. (Aslanyan, n.
d.) The 3D Bioprinter can provide a solution to this critical issue of time limitations for finding suitable donors for patients. By receiving their organs in a matter of days rather than years, many patients lives could be saved, thereby improving quality of life and decreasing the death rate due to lack of suitable donors.When it comes to medical procedures and operations, a major factor is the medical expense. The bioprinter’s creations are worth the high expense because of the many things it is capable of. With one expert putting the number at $300,000, most people find this as a financial barrier (Littler, 2017). Most medical companies acknowledge this financial barrier and already countries are taking action.
On January 27, 2016, Japan’s Central Social Insurance Medical Council, an organization of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, announced that the cost of 3D printed organ models used to assist medical treatments and surgeries will be covered under the standard medical insurance payment range (Japanese Medical Insurance, n.d.).
Just like Japan, many other countries hope to do the same and help pay for the cost of this needed surgery. As a result, patients who need a 3D bioprinter organ transplant should not let the money stand in their way because insurance companies can help defray the cost of medical expenses associated with the procedures. As the medical industry progresses quickly, each invention builds off of the previous development. Therefore, it is safe to say that the bioprinter is definitely the most advanced of all the printers as it incorporates different aspects of other previous inventions, such as the 3D printer. Organ and tissue printing is the future of medicine. Although bioprinting is still in its fetal stage, it looks very promising for the future. Scientists and doctors are trying to build on their ideas and experiments to try to create and find ways to advance medicine even further.
While they have successfully engineered hollow and flat tissue such as skin and the bladder, they hope to build upon their ideas to create solid vital organs such as the heart and the brain (Littler,2017). It may take years, if not decades to be able to successfully put these on the market. Some of the accomplishments include: scientists at Wake Forest Institution who are currently testing machines that can print skin directly onto a patient’s body, a tactic intended for use among burn and trauma victims. Doctors have even been creating a replica of defective hearts or other organs to map out a surgery before it will be performed. (Mellgard, 2015) Although 3D Bioprinting may only seem like an idea of the future, it can soon become the reality of the present. So while it may be some time until 3D printed tissue is fully capable of being confidently transplanted, many doctors are working hard to make sure this idea becomes reality.
“This is what technology is for,” says Dr. Sunil Patel, a multi-organ transplant surgeon at the University of Buffalo. “Many of us are attracted to it because it’s cool. But what turns out to be cool and incredibly meaningful is using it to enable a new kind of future.” (Mellgard, 2015)