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A New Bio-Ink that Lightens the Future of Artificial Organs

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There are more than 112,000 people on the national waiting list in 2020 in the U.S. according to the Human Resource and Service Administration (HRSA) (Grand View Research, 2020). And the average median waiting time to transplant kidney in the U.S. is 5 years (Grand View Research, 2020). There is no doubt that the global demand for any kind of organ supply is huge, and it is a demand that will never be met currently. However, in the recent years, scientists and researchers has been dedicated to developing new measures to settle this issue globally. Currently,  the most realistic solution is through making artificial organs.

One of the most exciting ways to produce artificial organs is through 3D Bioprinting. A research team from University of Saskatchewan in Canada has developed a way to print artificial organ using a new material called alginate since human body does not reject it (Naghieh, 2021). At the meantime, another team from Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. is also using alginate to form the bio-ink for the 3D bioprinting (Reade, 2021). Although using alginate alone might cause some immune rejection, when combine alginate with extracellular matrix (ECM), there can be little to nonimmune response. ECM is the scaffold structure left behind when lung tissue has been ‘decellularized’. This method has been tested on mice and proven that it will cause no immune response (Reade, 2021).

The most possible and earliest use for this technology is for the injured nerves. Studies have shown that if more than two centimetres of the nerves are destroyed, then a scaffold to bridge both sides of the injured nerves. If this technique is fully developed, it will be able to print the bridge using alginate during a surgery and prevent the patients from muscle function or feeling loss. With the development of this technique, it also has great potential in being used for printing organs. The bio-ink made with alginate and ECM has great potential in the future. By observing the effects, it has been proven that this method can not only prevent immune rejection but can also promote healing by encouraging blood vessels to grow naturally (Reade, 2021.

However, there are still lots of challenges in the development of artificial organs. For example, although alginate sounds like a perfect material for artificial organs, since it will not cause rejection from immune system, it collapses easily during  3D bioprinting. Moreover, researchers also predicted that the full commercialization of 3D printed tissues to be used in surgical procedures is still around 20 years away (Reade, 2021).

Although we are not able to print organs yet, it certainly is a very promising and exciting life-saving technology. There is no way that organ donation can ever meet the demand of organ transplantation. And not to mention that many organs were damaged during their transportation. Compared to growing organs in animal’s body, 3D bio-printed organ sounds very ethical, for it hurts no humans or animals in its manufacturing. With the development of technologies and the discoveries of new materials, the future of 3D bio-printed organs remains bright.

References

Grand View Research. (July 2020). Artificial Organ and Bionics Market Size Report 2020 – 2027. Retrieved from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/artificial-organ-and-bionics

Naghieh, S. (April 11, 2021). 3D-printed Organs Could Save Lives by Addressing the Transplant Shortage. Retrieved fromchttps://research.usask.ca/our-impact/highlights/the-conversation-canada/3d-printed-organs-could-save-lives-by-addressing-the-transplant-shortage.php  

Reade, L. (November 11, 2021). Fresh Prints: The Road to 3D Printed Organs. Retrieved from https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2021/11/fresh-prints-the-road-to-3d-printed-organs/