Scientists Are Able To Create Fully Functioning Mini Livers By A 3D Printer

Aadhya Khatri - Jan 13, 2020


Scientists Are Able To Create Fully Functioning Mini Livers By A 3D Printer

Next year will see Organovo, a bio-printing company, attempts to transplant part of an organ created by a 3D printer

The technology that allows 3D-printing human organs has the potential to save lives when scientists are able to perfect it. On average, in the U.S alone, 18 people die per day from not having transplant organs in time and the waiting list to get one is long.

If we are able to print the organs needed by the patient with their own cells, there is no need to wait and the risk of the organ being rejected is no more. A piece of good news here is that recently, experts in Brazil were able to make a liver by a 3D printer that functions like a real one, fueling hopes for a future when patients no longer have to wait for a donor.

The experts extracted blood of three volunteers and then reprogrammed it to transform it into pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into all kinds of cells found in the human body.

These stem cells then became liver cells. The experts blended them with bioink and turn them into spheroids for a 3D printer. Spheroids are not an individual cell but a cluster so when they are printed out, the machine actually prints more than one cell at a time. The next step is to allow the structure to culture in a period of 18 days.

3d-printer-liver
These stem cells then became liver cells. The experts blended them with bioink and turn them into spheroids for a 3D printer

After the culture period finished, the experts checked their experiment and found out hepatic organoids, or mini livers, which are able to do what a normal liver does but at a much smaller scale.

An author of the experiment, University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences’s postdoctoral fellow Ernesto Goulart said that their method was more efficient in previous methods known to science.

So what they did was grouping cells before printing instead of doing so individually. The spheroids, or clusters of cells, make up the tissue and allow it to function for much longer.

The tissue made by this method was able to maintain its hepatic functions for a longer time than those printed by other methods. The term hepatic function is used to refer to how well the 3D-printed liver works like a real one.

3D-printer-liver-spheroids
What they did was grouping cells before printing instead of doing so individually. The spheroids, or clusters of cells, make up the tissue and allow it to function for much longer

The researchers said that the process takes around 90 days to complete and they are confident that their method can be used to 3D print a fully functioning liver that can actually work on a human being. Goulart said that while the experiment happened on a small scale, when investment poured in, scaling up was possible.

The last few years have seen scientists getting better at 3D printing human organs in miniature sizes. Earlier this year, experts at Tel Aviv University has a successful endeavor of 3D printing a human heart.

3d-printer-Heart-Tel-Aviv-University
Earlier this year, experts at Tel Aviv University has a successful endeavor of 3D printing a human heart

Next year will see Organovo, a bio-printing company, attempts to transplant part of an organ created by a 3D printer. This means a portion of the patient’s organ is replaced and he or she can have one or two years before they need a transplant.

We are still very far away from the future when it is a new norm for people to get 3D-printed organs made by their own cells; however, we are closer day by day to that prospect. When the technology needed is perfected, fewer will people will die waiting for a transplant.

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