According to the statistics provided by the Health Resource and Service Administration’s article on Organ Donation , every day there are over 16,000 people waiting on the organ transplant list while only 80 of those people actually receive the transplants. Although we have many people in the world because of the donor requirements set by UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) , the same blood type, same organ size, matching of the donor and recipient immune system and if the recipient is a child or adult, there is a small number of donors who are eligible for donation. 3D printing potentially could fix the issue of matching organ donations.
Described in an article by Amy Norton a HealthDay Reporter from US News and World Report, 3D printing is the process of a computer creating three-dimensional objects by layering varying materials. Researchers have developed ways to use 3D printing in order to create customs tissues and organs for patients, a process called “bioprinting”. The problem with creating tissues to work cohesively within the human body is that those tissues need to connect with blood vessels and nerves flawlessly.
Although a fully functioning bioprinted organ is years away researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are working to create ways to make artificial and working tissue in humans. At Carnegie Mellon University, Lead researcher Andrew Lee and his team have formulated a new method of bioprinting, called “FRESH 2”, which uses collagen in order to create parts for the human heart. Collage, a plentiful protein in the body that is also vital to the construction of the extracellular matrix illustrates the challenges with printing cells and soft living materials. If collagen was printed by itself the result would be a puddle. But within this study, the researchers supported the collagen with a gel to allow it to solidify. The process allows them to manipulated collagen into any shape or form they want and furthermore helps them to understand how to shape living cells in general. The researchers also used collagen and human heart muscles as “bio-ink” in order to create a small model of the heart’s left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. After a couple of days, the artificial chamber had the ability to contract.
Although right now there is a perfect process for artificially created organs the works of the researchers represent a significant stepping stone in the process of bioprinting. With the research artificial tissues and cells comes the hope that one-day 3D bioprinting can create custom tissues for patients and save countless lives.