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The Future of Organ Transplants: Bioprinting, Stem Cells and More

Date: 22.1.2021 

In the United States alone, over 100,000 people are on the organ transplant list. Around 17 of these people will die per day without having received the transplant. It’s clear that organs from human donors will never be adequate for everyone looking for a transplant. Thus, scientists have been researching alternatives, such as using organs made from repurposed stem cells, animal organs, and bioprinted (3D-printed) organs.

Kredit: TAU.Bioprinting (also known as 3D bioprinting) is the combined use of biomaterials like cells and growth factors (naturally occurring substances that can stimulate cells’ production) to create structures that resemble body tissues. Bioprinting is an additive manufacturing process, implying that material is added to create something instead of starting with a block of material from which you need to remove parts to create an item. According to Professor Chua Chee Kai, a researcher at SUTD, “While 3D bioprinting is still in its early stages, the remarkable leap it has made in recent years points to the eventual reality of lab-grown, functional organs.” This suggests that a future where bioprinted internal organs are commonplace is inevitable.

Apart from 3D bioprinting, there are ongoing efforts in gene-editing technology to make it possible to transplant animal organs into human beings. Writing for the British publication, TheGuardian.com, Karen Weintraub says that it is no longer a question of if, but rather when this could happen. While Marlon F. Levy, a medical doctor working at the Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, accepts that there has been much progress in getting closer to animal-to-human transplants, he accepts that the clinical application process still needs to consider several issues within the field of genetics.





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