EMDT_European Medical Device Technology

European Medical Device Technology, Spring 2014

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28 | Spring 2014 European Medical Device Technology emdt.co.uk innovation Bioprinted Organs: Disruptive or Elusive? While the concept of printing organs engineered from human tissue holds unfathomable potential for healthcare, there are still many obstacles to overcome before bioprinting becomes the norm. T welve people die every day awaiting an organ donation. In the European Union alone, 61,000 people were on the waiting list for a transplant in 2012, according to the Council of Europe. The shortage of donor organs is so dire, in fact, that it has prompted patients to commit desperate acts, engendered an organ black market and led to a massive organ trans- plant fraud scandal. In the latter case, a German doctor allegedly manipulated patients' records to boost them to the top of the transplant waiting list back in 2012, ultimately increasing scrutiny of the system and deterring wary potential organ donors. But what if patients no longer had to rely on donors? Bioprinting may offer an alternative solution for patients by enabling doctors to print fully functional replacement organs engineered from human tissue. And because the organs could be created from the patient's own cells and tailored to his needs using com- puter modeling, the risk of rejection by the body would likely diminish greatly. While the concept of bioprinting hearts, livers, and other organs sounds like a sci-fi plot, researchers are well on the road to making it a reality within the next 10 to 20 years. Bioprinting: Where Are We Now? The bioprinting process is comparable to that of conventional 3-D printing: Three-dimensional objects—in this case, organs—are built layer-by-layer using digital 3-D data. The "ink," however, consists of human biological cells that are multiplied in a petri dish. Hardly a week goes by without news of mind-blowing breakthroughs in the 3-D printing of biological structures: Research- ers from Cornell University, for example, printed an artificial ear using CAD tech- nology for modeling. British scientists reproduced cells taken from the retina of a rat with the help of an inkjet printer. An Istanbul-based research team created macrovascular tissue. In 2013, research- ers at Chinese Hangzhou University even claimed to have produced a small kidney that survived for four months. But while overly optimistic media reports suggest that printed organs are right around the corner, it might take another decade or more until these types of innovations become a market reality. Unsurprisingly, it's more complicated to print an organ than a World of Warcraft figurine. "We are only just at the beginning to Thomas Klein Researchers use inkjet printers to print cell suspensions onto shimmering pink hydrogel pads, which prevent desiccation; Source: Fraunhofer IGB. ES430885_EMDT1405_028.pgs 04.29.2014 03:33 UBM black yellow magenta cyan

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