3D Printing Organs
This page originally created by Vicky Z. (2020-21)
Ethical Concerns Around 3D Printing Organs
There are many ethical concerns around 3D printing organs and other medical equipment, such as the cost, funding, materials used, and whether it is truly safe or not. The idea of how much science has evolved to the point that we can start to replace our human bodies with pieces of technology scares people. That is why we get into the ethical issues of organ printing.
3D organ printing can be used in medical technology and replace organ donations. There will also be less likely organ rejections from patients after their organ surgery transplants. It is predicted that around 900,000 deaths each year could be prevented by the use of artificially engineered organs. This is due to the lack of organ donors in our present time. Not only will the 3d printing help prevent so many deaths, but it is also more efficient in cost. Today, a regular kidney transplant may add up to an average of $300,000. But with the use of the engineered organs, it is estimated that the cost may be ten thousands of dollars less, and perhaps could cost as little at $10,000. 3D printing organs is an ethical issue that is connected to the topic of bioprinting.
How does 3D Printing Organs Work
The 3D printing of organs, (also known as bioprinting) is done by a machine that is fairly similar to our standard 3d printer. It functions by layering the inserted material on top of one another to create a shell like structure in the form of a model. Instead of using materials such as hard plastic, the organ printer uses a printable material that contains living cells. This material is known as bioink. However, materials like biodegradable plastic may also be used to aid the structure of the organ being printed. Bioink is primarily made up of water rich hydrogel molecules mixed with various cell growth encouraging chemicals. Inside of the hydrogel molecules are the living cells that are able to grow and develop easily with the aid of the chemicals. In order to create the substance, cells must be collected from donors or even the patient's own original tissue. By taking the tissue from the patient's own body, this reduces the chance of the body rejecting the artificially printed organ.
Possible Errors of Organ Printing
Many different errors may occur when using a bioprinter to print with living cells. Simple mistakes such as a printing nozzle being too small, or the printing pressure being too high may result in many damaged or even destroyed cells. Another significant challenge that scientists have found hard to overcome is maintaining the supplements of oxygen and nutrients that are distributed throughout the cells in a larger full sized organ. When using a bioprinter, it is much harder to maintain a steady flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout a large shape with more depth to it. That is why the biggest successes in bioprinting have been with smaller flatter structures.
Bioprinters, and the printing of organs are a huge step in advancing our technology, and giving people more chances at a healthy, better life. With such advancements scientists will continue further exploration into the world of 3d printing, and more opportunities will be brought up. While bioprinters may be costly, the more affordable procedures of obtaining an organ for a patient, and the millions of lives that will be saved by such advancements, greatly outweigh the negatives that may come with the 3d printing of organs. This major step in the procedure of organ transplants is not only a step for scientists, but a huge step in the direction of a brighter future for all people.