Artificial issue engineering has the potential to be a game-changer in the way we diagnose and treat chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and heart failure.
Recent progress in Artificial tissue engineering has led to some unexpected developments:
- Engineered skin that can replace grafts for burn patients
- Windpipe transplants for people who are too sick to undergo a transplant
- Artificial joints that have been success fully implanted into autoimmune patients.
- But there’s still a long way to go before tissue engineering becomes a reality that will help save the lives of millions of people.
- One of the biggest hurdles for tissue engineering is making it cost-effective. Most Artificial tissues that are developed today aren’t used because they are too costly.
- There are a couple of ways that tissue engineers can make their products cheaper:
- Create cheaper donor tissue.
- Make the product in a way that you have more control over the man.
- Integrate all the necessary components into a single product.
Synthetic biologists have been applying their knowledge of gene regulation to designing systems that can “express” small molecules when certain genes are activated.
In the last few years, our understanding of tissue physiology has greatly improved. Scientists now know how and why cells behave the way they do in various organs or Artificial tissue, and they can successfully engineer complex tissues such as heart valves, lungs, and even blood vessels.
The problem now is that we still need to figure out how to 3D-print the complex extracellular matrices(ECMs) that surround these Artificial tissue and organs–and right now, we’re nowhere close to being able to accomplish this.
Artificial tissue and organs have been a dream of researchers in the field for decades. The first great breakthrough came in 2008 when doctors in London transplanted a synthetic windpipe into a patient who suffered from cancer. Since then, we’ve seen the development of a lot of technologies that have the potential to make tissue engineering a reality, but it’s still not quite there yet.
The main problem that prevents researchers from being able to create new synthetic tissues is that they don’t have the tools to engineer complex ECMs. Creating accurate 3D prints in an “organoid” is especially challenging because it needs more precise control over the materials and structures it prints than what’s possible with existing tools like 3D printers and inkjet printers.
That’s why scientists from Northwestern University and Harvard are working on “injectable printers” hat can put together Artificial tissues, organs, and bones, all from a patient’s own body. The team has already developed an injectable printer that uses biodegradable materials to create artificial blood vessels that can be used in clinical trials. And the possibilities are endless: this technology could easily be applied to lung tissue engineering and even brain organoid manufacturing.
With an injectable printer, we can create 3D-printed tissues and artificial tissue organs that are just as complex and probably even more so than regular tissue structures in the human body.
This can change how doctors treat diseases that have previously been impossible to treat with surgery. For example, it’s not too farfetched to predict a future where 3D-printed organs are used for transplants between patients.
By all means, we’re not there yet–there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can realistically expect to 3D-print complex tissues and organs. But with the right tools and funding, it will be possible in the next few decades.