3D Printed Organs On-Demand: Where is the Future Headed?

gallery_2-730x410Who would have thought that the machines we built are now building bits and pieces of us? Sounds weird but is actually true. All our lives, we only heard about song on-demand or movies on-demand, and never in our sane minds had we thought about organ printing. But the future generations must prepare themselves to hear about organs-on-demand.

“A device the size of an espresso machine quietly whirs to life. The contraption isn’t filled with fresh, pungent grounds but instead spoonfuls of opaque, sterile goo. Its robotic arm moves briskly: It hovers, lowers, and then repositions a pair of syringes over six petri dishes. In short, in rapid-fire bursts, they extrude the milky paste. Soon, three little hexagons form in each dish. After a few minutes, the hexagons grow to honeycomb structures the size of fingernails. No one here is getting a latte anytime soon. “The honeycombs are human livers”, says Sharon Presnell, chief technology officer of Organovo.

3D printing is a cutting-edge manufacturing technique to create objects by merging or depositing material like plastic, ceramic metal, liquids, and powders or for medical reason, living cells.  This fusing is done into layers to produce a three-dimensional object and the process itself is termed as additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping.  3D printers are more or less similar to inkjet printers with an end product slightly different and much valuable than conventional printing.  With high expectations, this manufacturing device is expected to change the course of medical history unlike any other device.

The possible medical applications has the whole world staring in awe and on its toes, promising actual and potential categories such as development of customized prosthetics, organ and tissue fabrication, anatomical replicas and implants to state a few. It is also expected that the pharmaceutical research concerning different drugs and dosages will immensely benefit with this new ray of hope.

Notable benefits include:

  • Personalization and customization of medical products, equipment, and drugs
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Democratization of manufacturing and design
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Streamlined collaboration

The complex heterogeneous tissues might not be as complex as technology continues to advance. Fabrication of livers and kidney may not be a dream anymore and waiting to get the organ will ultimately end for good. This means new gateways to building viable implants organ models and customized printed tissues for drug discovery usage.

The hope continues as medical scientists strive to print patient’s tissues to using 3D printers to determine beforehand whether the drug would be effective or not. In addition, stem cells can be collected from a child’s teeth to be preserved for lifelong use to grown and replace tissues and organs in times of needs. Moreover, repairing legions of any thickness and preciseness can be deposited using bioprinting techniques.

From a niche manufacturing industry, 3D printing is now evolving as one of the fastest developing industries, reaching a worth of $2.7 billion within the last decade only. Future generations will someday hope to receive a 3D printed implant or organ generated using their own cells instead relying on wait-lists for organ transplants.

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3D Printed Organs On-Demand: Where is the Future Headed?
Dying patients could someday receive a 3D-printed organ made from their own cells rather than wait on long lists for the short supply of organ transplants. Such a futuristic dream remains far from reality, but university labs and private companies have already taken the first careful steps by using 3D-printing technology to build tiny chunks of organs.