Hi-Tech 'Organ Printer' Prints Artificial Blood Vessels

Dennis Faas's picture

The number of organ donors in North America is consistently lower than the number awaiting a donation. Now Organovo, a biotech company based in San Francisco, is attempting to save thousands of lives with their "organ printer" that is supposedly able to create artificial blood vessels made entirely from human cells.

While it might sound like a wishful, futuristic endeavor, the way an "organ printer" operates is incredible.

An Assortment of Printable Cell-Types

Instead of dispensing ink (as with a traditional printer) the "organ printer" uses two robotic tips that deposit an assortment of cell-types (cells that line blood vessel walls, smooth muscle cells that regulate vessel dilation and structural fibroblast cells). (Source: discovermagazine.com)

In total, the printer takes about 45 minutes to generate a four-inch long tube with a diameter that measures a few hundredths of an inch. These tubes are then flushed with nutrients to simulate blood flow, which allows the vessel to mature for almost a month before being implanted into a human body (though this concept still remains in the theoretical stages).

Such a system would be ideal for bypass surgery. As it stands, surgeons attempt to reroute blood around an obstruction using healthy veins transplanted from elsewhere in the patient's body. The "organ printer" method would become a much more efficient alternative. (Source: manyyearsyoung.com)

Body Part, Organ Replacement in the Works

Scientists plan to test the first batch of printed vessels in animals later this year and, if successful, Organovo hopes to transcend this technology into someday generating on-demand replacement body parts.

Before that happens, however, the company will likely attempt more complex printouts (like kidneys) in critical demand throughout the world.

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