Artificial Organs Aren’t Here Yet… But There’s Promise

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“The future we all imagine, and our past counterparts too, is one with stunning medical advancements. Where people would succumb to horrible disease and where illness is nothing more than a nightmare.”

And while we cannot discredit the billions of hours and dollars, we have spent to making this dream come true — and the breakthroughs we have had along the way, here in 2022 the fact is there is still another important stronghold of medicine that humanity has not been able to conquer.

Artificial Tissue 101

Biological Tissue

When we think of bones, skin or anything else in the body, we are actually referring to a bunch of cells that create these superstructures. When these cells come together and create functional structures that have a certain purpose, we call them tissue.

Classification of structures in the body | Source

Artificial Tissue

The solution to this problem is artificial tissue because it is something that can get matching tissue to the right people, at the right time, consistently. All of this can be distilled to the fact that artificial tissue is only the means of achieving the same end result. It will still be a structure made of viable and functional cells and ideally is identical to tissue made naturally.

Artificial tissue of an ear | Source

The Cell: A Bioprinter's biggest challenge

Tissue and certainly cells have been purpose built to be part of a larger system that actually allows it to thrive. This fundamentally clashes with what 3D Bioprinting is, which is isolating a group of cells to create a structure. Given that this is an unignorable component of cells, in order for bioprinting to be effective, we must also mimic an environment that meets the needs of the cell.

How bioink interacts with cells | Source

A Silver Bullet for 3D Bioprinting?

With a problem of such great impact to society it is a given that many solutions, ideas and possibilities are being revisited to solve the problem. However, amongst the various propositions, one solution that seems to have a lot of promise and growth, are bioprinting scaffolds.

An abstract representation of a scaffold, in the wider tissue making process | Source

ECM: The Scaffold Promise

Scaffolds are so influential because they are able to simulate the extracellular matrix (ECM) of cell. This is extremally ideal because as the complexity of the tissue increases, the less bioink on its own can help the cell. The ECM specifically helps in tissue regeneration by providing the correct environment, enzymes and interactions that are necessary to promote growth. Additionally, it has the capability to promote structural change and stability.

Example of an ECM in a natural situation | Source

Additional Benefits

While we only explored one challenge facing artificial tissue, in depth, there are other benefits to using a specially designed scaffold.

A Promising Future

Tissue printing is undeniably still in its infancy. Yet it has shown so much growth and prospects for a quality future to be ignored. Artificial tissue provides so much more flexibility to the medical community not only with treatment but also in areas like drug testing, biological interactions and disease research.

Organovo works on creating cells for therapeutics | Source

Personally, I think that the future promising, not only because of the results we can see here, but because this is the result of an ages long dream of what medicine should look like.

Now it's off to making stuff!

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