The Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is leading the way for a new revolution in medicine: 3-D printed bone, cartilage and muscle tissue.
“It has been challenging to produce human scale tissues with 3-D printing because larger tissues require additional nutrition,” explained Dr. Anthony Atala in a recent email interview with Reuters Health.
Atala heads a team that has created a way to 3-D print tissue and bone. They’ve already successfully transplanted it in lab rats and mice, too. It’s called ITOP, which stands for Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing.
So far, they are able to 3-D print tissue, muscle tissue and bone cartilage. After five months have passed post implant, the team says that the tissue is healthy and normal and does not have any “dead areas.”
According to the team, the implants, when viewed under a microscope, appeared healthy and normal and had regular blood supply and were receiving the right amount of nutrition. Skeletal muscle samples looked just as good. The team said that after two weeks of being implanted, the muscle tissue was responding to stimulus and was contracting like it should be. Similar methods are being used to 3-D print organs.
According to Dr. Lobat Tayebi from Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “There are numerous difficulties in bioprinting tissues in terms of robustness, integrity, and (blood vessel supply) of the end product. What is the most admirable about this study is the serious effort to overcome these problems by introducing an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP). This is a big step toward producing robust bioprosthetic tissues of any size and shape,” he told Reuters in an email interview.
In the future, it could be possible that severed limbs are simply regrown – bone, muscle, ligaments and all. Imagine how this technology could be applied to injured war veterans, accident victims and those who have deformities, amongst numerous medicinal applications for this technology.
Additionally, the ability to 3-D print organs would drastically reduce the waiting time for those who require transplants. Indeed, in the future, you may be informed that your kidneys are failing at the hospital. But just a week or two later, 3-D printed ones could be implanted that are fully biocompatible.
Move aside, Star Trek.