The promise of 3-D printing organs has been around almost for as long as we’ve had 3-D printers. Now, scientists with the University of California – San Diego have made a significant breakthrough to help make it happen.
Part of the problem with building a 3-D organ is mimicking the complex blood vessel structure both within the organ, and surrounding it which connects it with the rest of the body’s cardiovascular system. Earlier this year, the Chen Lab for BioNanomaterials succeeded in putting together a vascular system integrated within specimen tissue.
In short, the 3-D printer was able to print both the organ and the vessels needed to keep it functional as one unit.
This represents a huge breakthrough in 3-D organ replacement technology, leaving us closer than ever to utilizing 3-D printing to create a functioning major organ for a recipient.
In the U.S., around 150 people per day get added onto transplant lists. However, only about .3% of deaths occur in such a way that makes organ donation a possibility and less than half of those people are even signed up as donors. Being able to 3-D print functioning organs would effectively eliminate transplant lists and save those who couldn’t get on the list because of age or other health factors in the first place.
Throughout the world, at least 175,000 lives could be saved every year once the technology became widespread. While we are likely still a few years away from 3-D printing complete essential organs, we’ve taken a big step in the right direction.