The first commercial 3D bio-printer to make human tissues and organs has arrived that will enable doctors to order and replace human organs on demand.
A patient who had to wait for months or sometimes years to find a organ donor that may prove fatal can now breathe easy with the arrival of the new device.
The new machine, which has been made jointly by Organovo, a San Diego-based company that specializes in regenerative medicine, and Invetech, an Australian engineering and automation firm based in Melbourne, will cost around $200,000.
Gabor Forgacs of the University of Missouri and also one of the founders of Organovo developed the prototype on which the new 3D bio-printer is based.
To start with, simple tissues such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels will be made for purely research purposes, says Keith Murphy, Organovo's chief executive. However,the company expects to produce blood vessels for use as grafts in bypass surgery within five years, once clinical trials are complete, he said. With more research it should be possible to produce bigger, more complex body parts.
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Researchers have found that, when small clusters of cells are placed next to each other they flow together, fuse and organize themselves. Many more techniques are being explored so as to condition the cells to mature into functioning body parts.
Though printing organs is new, growing them from scratch on scaffolds has already been done successfully.
Patients waiting for transplants are less likely to worry about the new technology, as long as the body parts work.