Scientists have made great advances in the field of regenerative medicine. According to latest news, custom-made, living body parts can now be 3D printed. Feels right out of sci-fi movie when you hear about the advances in medicine, science and technology.
Recreating actual living body parts is now possible and that includes recreating bone, cartilage and even muscle. With that being said, one day very soon we could be looking at whole organs.
Experts have described this technology as “a goose that really does lay golden eggs.” And we do agree with them! Think about what this can do for those people in need to emergency repair. Can you imagine what the surgeons can achieve? A badly broken bone or a severed ear can be mended easily with 3D printing.
This breakthrough was recently published in Nature Biotechnology and holds great promise for regenerative medicine.
According to BBB.com:
The idea of placing individual human cells in a precise pattern to replace a damaged jaw, missing ear or scarred heart muscle holds much promise. [However, this idea had been fraught with issues, since] the field has been limited by the huge challenge of keeping the cells alive – they become starved of oxygen and nutrients in tissues thicker than 0.2 millimetres.
The team at the Wake Forest Baptist Centre successfully bypassed this issue by using a new technique that riddled these 3D-prints with micro-channels that allowed nutrients to penetrate into the tissue. The 3D printer used by Wake Forest Baptist Centre is called an Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing system or ITOP for short. ITOP combines a biodegradable plastic that forms the basic structure or backbone for the body part and a water-based gel that contains living cells. The water-based cells encourage the living cells to grow and multiple, thereby forming live tissue. This structure is then implanted within animals to encourage growth. Once implanted within the animal tissue, the biodegradable plastic disintegrates and is replaced with a natural protein matrix. Blood vessels and nerves eventually grow into the implants.
Professor Anthony Atala, the lead researcher, told BBC that they were now ready to print living tissue on a human scale. These 3D printed tissues are the same strength as human tissues; however, the durability of these tissues still needs to be tested.
Professor Atala’s team is also looking to try their hand at recreating a human jawbone. He told the BBC News Website:
Let’s say a patient presented with an injury to their jaw bone and there’s a segment missing. We’d bring the patient in, do the imaging and then we would take the imaging data and transfer it through our software to drive the printer to create a piece of jawbone that would fit precisely in the patient.
Other techniques include soaking the biodegradable plastic structure in living cells. This technique has had successful human trials as well. The Wake Forest Centre has in the past reconstructed vaginas using this successful technique. However, as with all these advances and success stories, the durability of these living cells is still in doubt.
Wake Forest Centre has definitely put regenerative medicine on the map. Professor Martin Birchall, a surgeon at the University College of London feels encouraged by these findings. He said it is not going to be long before doctors and scientists can print customized organs and tissues. The breakthrough in this field has been astounding.