Perhaps one day in the foreseeable future, a patient in need of an organ transplant will be able to visit the clinic where his doctor will take a skin biopsy, which could be used to grow the patient a new organ. This organ will be a genetic match to the recipient and therefore will hopefully not require lifelong immunosuppressant therapy. Doctors and scientists around the world are currently using this technology to replace simple, hollow organs, such as trachea and bronchial tubes, but some day patients in need of solid organs, such as hearts and kidneys, will be able to benefit from this amazing technological advance.
As the name implies, biofabrication is an emerging biotechnology that involves producing various living organisms from cells, molecules, and biomaterials.
The technique encompasses a range of scientific disciplines – from bioengineering, biology, and chemistry. When applied to the human body, biofabrication involves both tissue and organ engineering, as well as helping to develop new drugs and drug toxicity.
And it’s the technique that scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina are using to create new human tissue. Using 3-D bioprinters, their hope is that they can generate tissue cells and organs in the lab for human transplant.
There’s been significant progress in this field, says Robert Langer, professor in biomedical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We can already make skin for patients with burns or skin ulcers, and others like corneas and liver are in trials. Langer hopes we will be able to do this for all tissues.
Immune rejection and integration are big challenges, though. Langer’s team are working on creating new materials that are better for stem cells to grow on, they are working on ways of synthesising thousands of new chemicals that may perform better, and they are creating new imaging techniques.
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