When I heard that this week we were going to study TED talks I got excited, as I had heard many cool stories about them, but I never had investigated them myself. So while looking I wanted to find something that was either really fascinating or awe-inspiring. When I came across the title I think I found one of the coolest things ever. Organ Printing!

Today with modern medicine keeping us alive longer, humans are living longer than ever before. Along with this miracle we have also run into a new problem. As we age our organs eventually fail. Over the last ten years the number of patients requiring an organ donation has doubled, while people giving transplants have barely risen.  Anthony Atala and other bioengineers around the world have now developed prototype printers to battle this problem.

Atala continues to describe how organ printing works: “We’re also working on more sophisticated printers. Because in reality, our biggest challenge are the solid organs. I don’t know if you realize this, but 90 percent of the patients on the transplant list are actually waiting for a kidney. Patients are dying every day because we don’t have enough of those organs to go around. So this is more challenging — large organ, vascular, a lot of blood vessel supply, a lot of cells present. So the strategy here is — this is actually a CT scan, an X-ray — and we go layer by layer, using computerized morphometric imaging analysis and 3D reconstruction to get right down to those patient’s own kidneys. We then are able to actually image those, do 360 degree rotation to analyze the kidney in its full volumetric characteristics, and we then are able to actually take this information and then scan this in a printing computerized form. So we go layer by layer through the organ, analyzing each layer as we go through the organ, and we then are able to send that information, as you see here, through the computer and actually design the organ for the patient.”

At the end of Anthony Atala’s talk they brought up a young gentleman who at the age of 10 needed to have his bladder replaced. He was in need of a bladder but they couldn’t find one. So he was a part of a group of ten people who received printed bladders made out of their own cells. He today lives a normal life and goes to University. It goes to show how far modern medicine has taken us today. As a person who has a cadaver ligament in his knee I get excited to hear the advances in medicine. It is exciting to imagine what lies in the future for modern medicine. Do you think when this technology is available that it will be accessible by all? What new medical technology would you like to see be invented?

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3 responses »

  1. Tomas Smaliorius says:

    As much as I am a big supporter of this type of technology, I still cringe at the fact that this technology will enable us to live longer lives, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has the potential to further increase our population growth. At the pace we are heading right, over populating the Earth will become a serious issue in the near future. I know certain countries like China, have already applied population control to its citizens. Hopefully we never get to the point of exceeding the global capacity, where it might fall in the government’s hands to dictate who gets to have a second child. For now, let’s embrace the technological advances we have been able to make, but with a cautious mindset.

  2. Lindsay S. says:

    This is such as interesting concept and something I have never heard of before. It does not surprise me though, so many of the advances in medical technology are so incredible and hard to believe when you first hear about them. Take robotic surgery, for example, 30 years ago such a concept probably would have sounded absolutely insane. I do suspect that this technology of printing organs will only be an option for very select individuals. I imagine until it is further developed, the costs will remain extremely high and it probably won’t be too common. Additionally, there are probably very few medical professions trained in this highly specialized area and many may be hesitant to pursue it given its brand newness and possible uncertainty about long-term effects surrounding the technology.

  3. Marko says:

    wow. This is absolutely mind-blowing technology. When I read your topic I was like “you can’t print organs, that is definitely a hoax”. Little that I know. I mean, my mom is a doctor so I heard before about CT scans and PET scans, but I never knew they are so advanced. If this technology is already able to successfully print and replace organs, can you imagine the same technology in 20 years? We are all going to live way more than 100 years. Now I need a new diversification strategy for my 401k. haha. I didn’t plan to live 160 years.

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