Organ transplants are life-changing, but they come with heavy baggage. From waiting anxiously on a long list to worrying about your body rejecting a new organ, it’s a roller coaster ride. Now, what if I told you that scientists at Stanford University are inching closer to printing human hearts using 3D technology? Yes, it’s as groundbreaking as it sounds.
Stanford is pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible. They’ve received a sizeable $26.3 million contract from ARPA-H, aiming to take the tech world’s fascination with 3D printing into the realm of life-saving medical science.
“It’s truly a moonshot effort, but the raw ingredients for bioprinting a complete and complex human organ are now in place for this big push,” says assistant professor of bioengineering in the Schools of Engineering and Medicine, a member of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, and principal investigator on the project, Mark Skylar-Scott.
Printing Of A Fully Functioning Human Heart!
The human body can be a little tricky. When it detects something foreign, like a transplanted organ, it can sometimes reject it. It’s the body’s way of saying, “Hey, this isn’t mine!” This has always been a major stumbling block in organ transplantation. But what if the organ was made from your cells? No more organ rejection.
The Stanford team’s game plan revolves around stem cells – those magical cells that can become almost any type of cell in the body. By using a patient’s own stem cells, they aim to 3D print organs, making them personalized and, hopefully, rejection-proof. The advancement isn’t just about the idea; it’s about the precision. Their tech can even print blood vessels into these organs, making them even more like the real deal.
Advances in bioprinting — the 3D printing of living tissue — puts within reach the possibility of fabricating whole organs from scratch and implanting them in living beings. Stanford researchers led by @mascott85 have received a federal grant to do just that. @StanfordMed pic.twitter.com/iREo6Q7Ae2— Stanford Engineering (@StanfordEng) September 28, 2023
Now, it’s not as simple as pressing ‘print’ and getting a heart. (Wouldn’t that be something?) The team will use bioreactors, machines that will grow the necessary cells, like those that make our hearts beat or send electrical signals. Their ambition? To produce billions of these cells, enough to print a whole heart every two weeks. Before they’re put to real-world use, these hearts will go through a series of tests to make sure they’re up to the job.
The lead investigator, Mark Skylar-Scott, is as grounded as he is passionate about the project. He says, “We’ll use these cells to practice, learn, refine, and perfect the design. Our goal? To eventually implant these hearts into pigs.” Now, before you get ahead of yourself, human trials are still a ways off. But testing on pigs is a significant step towards that ultimate goal.
The big picture here is not just about a fancy printer and some cells. It’s about reimagining the future of medical science. A world where the agonizing wait for a donor or the fear of rejection is a thing of the past? That’s a world many are hoping for. Kudos to the Stanford team for leading the charge toward this brighter, heart-filled future!