Organ Replication Is Here
Organ replication; yeah I said that. We aren't in the year 3000 AD, we don't have flying cars, and we aren't mingling with aliens just yet, but we are at the beginning of a trend for regenerating organs through our various sciences and technologies. Let me jump into depth. Through the process known as 3D printing, our leaders in the medical world are beginning to create functioning organs! Currently, it is still very experimental, and very expensive, but organ replication is possible!
So far, 30 people have received regenerated bladders. Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina has been working to further develop this technology through 3D printing, an innovative form of manufacturing. In this process, a 3D printer will lay down small layers of material, sometimes smaller than 30 microns. This is a fraction of a millimeter! This material being laid down is bio-ink, or cells. Shaping of the cells is taken care of by a 3D file, which is then transferred to a 3D printer. The printer will use this file as the blueprint, and it will print the piece.
Solid organs aren't quite as easy to make, as they involve a lot of blood vessels, opposed to a hollow organ. A jawbone has been created at Columbia University! At Yale, biomedical engineers used 3D printing to construct a lung. The University of Minnesota took cells from a rat, and created a beating heart! At the University of Michigan, David Humes created an artificial kidney which was about the size of an average wallet. This kidney passed some tests on sheep, and isn't implantable just yet. This kidney released hormones and made some other kidney functions. Anthony Atala back from Wake Forest Institute and his team have created the bladders, and they are also working on 22 other organs and tissues. His team created a functioning part of a human liver. This team even created an ear.
3D printing is fascinating in the sense that it can manufacture pieces in virtually any shape, even if that shape has to be molded into an organ of some kind. It is more than empowering to know that the smartest people in our medical world are doing awesome work for the greater good. Imagine having to go through something horrible like heart failure, but having the option to grow a replacement heart. That would be simply incredible! If our doctors and engineers could remove the act known as organ failure, our life expectancy would go up significantly!
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