3d printing – to revolutionize medical science by making human organs

3d-printing-body-partsWith people now being able to make sculptures and other 3d objects like jewellery, shoes, mobile covers etc. using a 3d printer – researchers from around the world are trying to make use of this technology in biological field as well – turning science fiction into an unbelievable reality.

With the technology – and ongoing researches around the world – researchers claim that they can soon create human tissue models and other custom-made body parts, including muscle and nerve cells and cartilage using 3d printing.

TeVido BioDevices, a US based 3D bioprinting startup which is developing 3d printing technology for reconstructive surgery and wound care is working to diagnose and find an alternate method for the traditional breast cancer treatment.

“Of the some 200,000 women in the US, nearly 40% undergoes mastectomies, full removal of the breast. The final step in reconstruction is the nipple areola complex (NAC); patients with loss of the NAC continue to experience psychological distress for long – yet current available options are vulnerable to such predictable results. TeVido’s NAC concept leverages a woman’s own skin and adipose (fat) cells to create a custom graft for a plastic surgeon to apply.” said Laura Bosworth, founder, TeVido.

TeVido is developing a natural adipose implant using 3d printing technology. The process starts with the use of 3d printing using metals or polymers living and functional tissues. What 3d Printing adds is a level of precision in building a structure so that the shape is an exact match to the replacement, resulting in a “personalized” implant.  For example, there are often only a few sizes of a metal hip implant that are available today, say small, medium and large. With 3D printer, that could be changed by making a custom sized implant.

The cost factor

For countries like India where even the artificial 3d printing is at a very nascent stage – affordability could be a roadblock. However, if we look at the total cost of reconstruction (by 3d printing) vs. the traditional method – the overall cost could not be very hard to afford. As 3d printing can provide a successful transplant in one surgical intervention versus the standard treatment that takes multiple procedures over many months – which brings the overall cost higher and higher in every sitting. Therefore the 3d printing of human organs is likely to provide an overall less expensive and a lower risk solution.

The  technology can also be used for other human organ transplants. Hearts, Livers and kidneys are biologically complicated so this work will be more complex and likely to take decades. There are numerous technical challenges to be overcome. But there is hope, there are biologically simpler body parts that can make a difference sooner.

Recently researchers and physicians in Michigan used a 3d printer to build a trachea for a baby that could not breathe. Work with ears and cartilage has been underway for quite some time – which a team of Chinese researches has managed to make possible by successfully printing human organs like Ears and Livers using specialized 3d printers that use living cells instead of plastic.

Printing smaller portions of livers, hearts and kidneys may be useful in repair to those organs rather than full transplantation – just like TeVido’s market of breast reconstruction, which allows the company to work with simpler cells: fat and skin which should allow products to market sooner than full organ transplants.

Currently funded by the National Science Foundation, TeVido is seeking additional grants and partnerships for ongoing funding needs.

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