News hardware Scientists create the first printer that saves lives
As more and more people around the world wait for organ transplants, research into 3D printing of living tissue continues to advance. A hope for many patients. Today, science is advancing by leaps and bounds towards a 3D printer capable of saving lives.
Every year in France, thousands of people benefit from an organ transplant: heart, lungs, cornea, the possibilities are endless. In 2021, 5,273 transplants took place in France on patients admitted to the waiting list.Organ transplantation saves lives, but it is subject to many limitations. The first, and not least, is none other than organ availability. The “donations” are in the vast majority of cases from people who are deceased and compatible with the patient awaiting a transplant. There are, of course, cases of transplants performed by living donors, but the issue of compatibility remains significant.
3D printers for the service of organ transplantation
In the United States, where the waiting list for an organ transplant exceeds 100,000 patients, 17 people die every day before they can benefit from a transplanthighlighted bevel gear. A situation that pushes many teams of researchers to work hard to find an alternative to the traditional transplant. Among the paths mentioned is bio-printing.
Researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute actively working on a bio-printing method capable of making living tissue using a 3D printing process. This would make it possible to create thick tissue containing human cells, which should eventually make it possible to print viable organs for transplants.
Scientists are currently working to extend the lifespan of these tissues, which currently “lives” for about six weeks. They are on their way to solving one of the most critical issues in bioprinting, namely vascularization of printed tissue.
The video released by the Wyss Institute is quite fascinating to watch: anyone who has ever seen a standard 3D printer work can easily find a familiar diagram there. No plastic here, but layers composed of living cells which, when stacked, form a thick vascularized tissue.
“The method uses a customizable printed silicone mold to house and seal the printed fabric on a chip. Inside this mold, a grid of larger vascular channels containing living endothelial cells is printed in silicone ink. A free-standing ink containing living mesenchymal stem cells (MSC’ er), are overlaid via a separate print job. After printing, a fluid composed of fibroblasts and extracellular matrix is used to fill open areas in the construct.”explain the researchers.
When printing is complete, the tissue is immediately impregnated with nutrients that ensure its survival, but also its development. This phase is very delicate and it is this that is currently at the heart of current research.
What is the use for 3D printing of living tissue?
Scientists initially hope achieve the creation of vascularized tissues that are viable enough to be used in regenerative medicine, for example for the treatment of severe burns. In such a situation, the printed tissue would contain cells from the body of the person for whom the transplant is intendedwhich would greatly limit the risk of rejection.
As for 3D printing viable organs, the road will still be very long. Once the technology is viable enough to be tested, it will take years of clinical trials to prove the effectiveness of the printed drugs. The day when we will see a heart ready to be transplanted from a 3D printer has yet to come, but researchers are working on the subject to make this science fiction vision a reality.