Jewelers, machinists, and chocolatiers. What do these have in common? Just decades-old 3-D printing technology to make custom pieces without having to form molds. Now leading figures in regenerative therapies are using cutting edge 3-D bioprinting to construct living tissue, and perhaps even whole human organs.
In laboratories worldwide, luminaries in biology, chemistry, medicine, and engineering are working on the routes toward one audacious, spectacular goal: to print a functioning human kidney, liver, or heart using a patient’s own cells.
Anthony Atala, NewOrgan Prize Scientific Advisory board member and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, envisions what he calls “the Dell computer model” where a surgeon could order up “this hard drive, with this much memory…” Except that he/she would be talking about specs for living tissue instead of electronics. What an amazing time we live in!
“The possibilities for this kind of technology are limitless,” said Lawrence Bonassar, whose lab at Cornell University has printed vertebral tissue that tested well in mice. “Everyone has a mother or brother or uncle, aunt, grandmother who needs a meniscus or a kidney or whatever, and they want it tomorrow. … The promise is exciting.”
Photo Credit: Organovo
Researchers have already printed skin and vertebral disks and put them into living bodies (yet to be human bodies) but a few types of printed replacement parts such as blood vessels and arterial structures for use in coronary bypass surgeries could be ready for use in human trials in as little as two to five years. In fact, on December 8, 2010 Organovo announced the release of data on the world’s very first fully bioprinted blood vessels from their NovoGen MMX Bioprinter.
“These vessels are the world’s first arteries made solely from cells of an individual person,” said Keith Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of Organovo. “Our results show the power of the NovoGen bioprinting technology to create tissue starting only with cells.”
Aortic valves are the focus of Jonathan Butcher’s lab at Cornell University, with the hopes of printing replacement valves for children with heart disease. Every method of bioprinting differs slightly from one lab to the next. Check out how it’s done at Cornell!
“If the federal government created a ‘human organ project’ and wanted to make the kidney, I literally think it could happen in 10 years,” says chemical engineer Keith Murphy, co-founder of Organovo, a firm that makes and works with high-end bioprinters and a major investment of Methuselah Foundation. “But that would require a massive commitment of people [and] resources”, he said.
That’s why we at Methuselah Foundation ask you to see the scale of good that this technology can bring to humanity. We ask for the commitment to help realize the goal of making an organ available when the need arises, extending the lives of countless people all over the world. Donate today!
Berkowitz, Bonnie. “3-D Printers May Someday Allow Labs to Create Replacement Human Organs.” The Washington Post National. The Washington Post, 9 May 2011. Web. 4 July 2011.