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3D-printed Organ Technology May Make Transplant Waiting Lists a Thing of the Past

3D printed organs | Image for representation | Credit: Reuters

3D printed organs | Image for representation | Credit: Reuters

The hydrogel used in the process is the same used for making things like contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering.

When most people think of 3-D printing, they imagine create plastic toys and other knick-knacks, or even some machine or robot—basically, inanimate objects. But gradually, 3-D printing industry is becoming more and more utilised in fields like Biology, as opposed to mechanics and engineering. The latest 3-D printing effort? Fully-functional organs. According to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in University of Buffalo, the researchers may have just found a solution to organ transplant and save millions of lives.

As of now, any person with failing organs (liver, kidney, heart etc) is put on a waitlist and ranked by the urgency of their situation. Some people never reach the top of the list and suffer the consequences by paying with their lives. If organs could be 3-D printed, within hours, the impact in medicine world would be immense.

If you have seen Westworld, you may remember the gooey liquid from which the robotic hosts with realistic skin are made. Imagine the same, but this time, an actual hand emerges.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqveljTzypM&list=TLGGaS3UkUnHu1QwODAzMjAyMQ

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The team from Buffalo shared a video as proof of their concept. It features a golden-yellow liquid (hydrogel) contained in a transparent vat. As the fork lifts up, it comes out with a human hand. The actual process was reportedly 19 minutes, but the video has been sped up and is only a few seconds long.

“The technology we’ve developed is 10-50 times faster than the industry standard, and it works with large sample sizes that have been very difficult to achieve previously,” said co-lead author Ruogang Zhao, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering.

It has been done using a 3D printing method called stereolithography. The hydrogel used in the process is the same used for making things like contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering. The process is much faster than traditional 3-D printing. The team believes it can be suitable for printing cells with embedded blood vessel networks.