Jun.17, 2013

We've seen some fascinating experiments that scientists are making in the field of tissue engineering. Although it will take some time before scientists are able to grow entire fuctioning organs, simpler body parts are already being put into patients.

Two years ago, Angela Irizarry from Pennsylvania needed a crucial blood vessel. Angela was born in 2007 with a heart that had just one functional pumping chamber, known as a single-ventricle defect, a potentially lethal condition that leaves the body short of oxygen.

Standard treatment involves a series of operations, the last of which implants a blood vessel near the heart to connect a vein to an artery, which effectively rearranges the organ's plumbing.

(Angela and her mother. credit: Ralph Wilson)

Yale University surgeons attempted to create that conduit with bone marrow cells. This technique had already worked for a series of patients in Japan, but Angela would be the first participant in an American study.

"There was a risk," recalled Angela's mother, Claudia Irizarry. But she and her husband liked the idea that the implant would grow along with Angela, so that it wouldn't have to be replaced later.

In 2001, over 12 hours one day, doctors took bone marrow from Angela and extracted certain cells, seeded them onto a 5-inch-long biodegradable tube, incubated them for two hours, and then implanted the graft into Angela to grow into a blood vessel.

It's been almost two years and Angela is doing well. Before the surgery she couldn't run or play without getting tired and turning blue from lack of oxygen, said Claudia. Now, "she sings, dances and dreams of becoming a firefighter - and a doctor."

Just in last month, A baby's life has been saved by using an experimental windpipe to restore his breathing created by a 3D printer.

So far, the lab-grown parts implanted in people have involved fairly simple structures - basically sheets, tubes and hollow containers. Scientists at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are using 3D printing techniques to manufacture scaffolding for human cells to grow on and create realistic-looking facial features including ears and noses.

The university is experimenting with various ways to create replacement organs for human implantation, from altering animal parts to building them from scratch with a patient's own cells.

Lead researcher Dr Anthony Atala is pioneering the new technology. His pioneering lab at Wake Forest is using a 3-D printer to make miniature prototype kidneys, some as small as a half dollar, and other structures for research.

Dr. Anthony Atala holds the "scaffolding" for a human kidney created by a 3-D printer | Credit: Allen Breed

Instead of depositing ink, the printer puts down a gel-like biodegradable scaffold plus a mixture of cells to build a kidney layer by layer. Atala expects it will take many years before printed organs find their way into patients.

"It's almost like taking an apartment building, moving everybody out ... and then really trying to repopulate that apartment building with different cells," says Dr. John LaMattina of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He's using the approach to build livers. It's the repopulating part that's the most challenging, he adds.

The "scaffolding" for replacement ears | Credit: Allen Breed

The "scaffolding" for a replacement nose| Credit: Allen Breed

One goal of that process is humanizing pig organs for transplant, by replacing their cells with human ones.

"I believe the future is ... a pig matrix covered with your own cells," says Doris Taylor of the Texas Heart Institute in Houston to Malcolm Ritter of AP. She reported creating a rudimentary beating rat heart in 2008 with the cell-replacement technique and is now applying it to a variety of organs.

Dr. Harald Ott of Massachusetts General Hospital believes soon they can regenerate an organ that will not be rejected and can be grown on demand and transplanted surgically, similar to a donor organ.

Ott's lab and the Yale lab of Laura Niklason have used the cell-replacement process to make rat lungs. And Ott is also working to grow human cells on human and pig heart scaffolds for study in the laboratory.

Other researchers are looking to stem cells from bone marrow or body fat that could be nudged into becoming the right kinds of cells for particular organs.

Ott hopes to see human studies on some lab-grown organ in five to 10 years. Wagner calls that very optimistic and thinks 15 to 20 years is more realistic.

But LaMattina figures five to 10 years might be about right for human studies of his specialty, the liver.

"I'm an optimist," he adds. "You have to be an optimist in this job."



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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katie wrote at 10/10/2013 1:45:59 AM:

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