Parallel research and development communities are working towards the production of entirely artificial organs and tissue engineered live organs. Where the two communities merge, we see bioartificial replacement parts: materials science, xenotransplantation, and tissue engineering mixed into a single product. One contemporary example is replacement heart valves, such as those mentioned in a recent Bloomberg article:
Edwards Lifesciences Corp.’s Sapien heart valve may become the first life-saving treatment in the U.S. for frail, elderly patients with diseased valves after a study found it slashed deaths in those with few medical options. … Edwards, based in Irvine, California, will use this research and additional tests in healthier patients to seek FDA approval of the $30,000 valve next year.
The valve, made partly from cow tissue, is inserted into an artery in the groin, and threaded using a thin wire into the heart. It’s designed to help patients who may be too frail to undergo surgery in which doctors cut open the chest, spread the ribs and temporarily stop the heart. It may also give a less invasive option with speedier recovery to healthier patients.
Heart valves are a competitive area of development: many different strategies are under development and in trials. You might recall that researchers have in recent years shown that they can take donor heart valves from humans or animals, strip out the cells, and replace them with tissue grown from the recipient’s stem cells. More competition between different methodologies means faster progress towards solutions that function just as well as the original heart valves they replace, and last for longer.