Five ways 3D printing will change organ transplanting in medicine.
A few decades ago doctors came up with a solution to organ failure: transplant. All was needed to do was to find a compatible donor, and pray for the patient to survive the surgery. On the other hand, in a world of scarce resources, now days’ doctors must face ethical dilemmas such as if a mother of two deserves a liver transplant more, compared to a father of three. They must choose if a heart goes to a grandfather or to a grandchild. Yet, science comes to human kind’s rescue once again! Now, with advancements in 3D printing technology, medicine may be able to serve as God all over again and save everyone in need. Doctors and engineers are working side by side to build a 3D printing machine that can use stem cells as its “ink”. However, there is still a long way to go before we can see 3D printed functioning organs. Here are five benefits of 3D printing in medicine:
1- Everyone gets one
There are 105,000 Americans waiting for organ donation. Not everyone makes it to the day he gets on top of the waiting list. About 18 people die every day while waiting for organ transplant. With the 3D Printing, scarce resources will no longer be an obstacle. We can print as many hearts, livers and stomachs as we need to. Unless we run out of “ink”. A problem we will never have to worry about. Tissues and stem cells is what human being are made from, so there will be plenty of material for our “life printer.”
2- Everything fits
Even after finding a donor, doctors often had to deal with other challenges. Sometimes the donor was a grown-up person, but the receiver was a young child whose body had not grown physically enough to fit the organ inside. 3D printing already helped a child in Japan, where his father’s liver was too big for him, so his doctors’ 3D printed copies of the father’s liver and practiced on how much to carve so it could make a perfect fit. The new organ will be printed based on the original one, so it will fill exactly the space of the original organ and connecting sides of the organ will be fully compatible to the connecting sides of the organism.
3- Everything works
However, there have been unfortunate cases, where even though the donor and the receiver were compatible in paper, being a foreign body, sometimes the organism refuses the new organ and causing the patient’s death. An estimation of 21% of kidney transplants end in failure. That being said, organ rejection is not going to be an issue anymore with 3D printing. The printed organ will maintain the tissue of the person itself receiving the organ, which minimizes the chances for the organism to refuse the organ. This would be twice the victory, the person who receives the organ will survive, and the person who could have been the right fit for the organ, will not die from missing the chance.
4- Everything lasts
Another concern with organ donning is that you do not know your expiring date yet. The success rate of an organ transplantation depends from the system accepting the new organ, but also in what kind of condition is the organ itself. The organ may be functional, but it has some miles on it already. Maybe the previous owner did not take good care of his body, maybe the organ is tired after already working for 50 years. All questions that will not be a concern with the new 3D printed organ. The receiver will get a brand-new organ, fully functional and healthy, ready for a new life cycle. People can allow their self another beer without having to worry about their liver. A few more cupcakes sound good too.
5- The organ black market would crash
The international organ black market is an issue that the United Nations have tried to address, but has been unsuccessful so far. Being a very profitable dirty business, has not save anyone from all ages and races that is found an easy prey. In the best case scenario where the donor is conscious about the organ he is giving, he will receive between $1.000-$5.000 and his organ will be sold for $100.000 in the black market from the broker. There are situations where the person will be deceived into giving up the organ, or vulnerable people are treated for an ailment that doesn’t even exist and then their organ are removed without their knowledge. With the 3D printing solution, the scarce resources problem will come to an end and everyone will be able to have the needed organ. The trafficking of children and people from third world countries with the purpose to be sold in this market will come to an end as well!
Once again seems like human kind will score another victory in its battle to cheat death. There is still a long way to go before we can chant victory, but seems like the doctors already have their eyes on the prize, and teaming up with some of the best engineers in the world, they will make magic happen in the next two decades. Once we will put that question to peace another one will arise: How much longer can we push before we breach the path of natural selection and evolution?!