Artificial organ parts, devices to replace organs (like a heart), and inter-species organ transplants are examples of how Technology has modified organ transplants in the world.
About 17 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant. Every 10 minutes one person is added to the transplant waiting list. The entire process is emotionally and physically draining for both the donor and recipient.
1954 was the first successful Kidney Transplantation between two identical twins. Now in 2022, we have transplants between different species and are on the way to making organs from scratch.
With the help of technology, this advancement in healthcare is possible. Research is being focused to
- Reduce the need for human donors
- Increase the acceptance of transplants
- Make complete organs or at least parts of them from scratch
- Replace organs with devices till a suitable donor is available.
- Getting organs from different species.
- Reduce the cost of the process.
Let’s look at the advancements which are making this possible
What are the advanced technology in the transplantation of organs?
Printing organs completely layer by layer using 3D printing technologies is called BIOPRINTING. Instead of using plastic or metals, a bioprinter is loaded with different molecular components to make an organ.
The goal is to build scaffolds and deposit cells and help them grow into functioning organs.
An organ that will be compatible with the recipient’s immune system, and will integrate with the body.
So far we have been able to print :
- cartilage tissues with healing properties
- and artificial printed skin cells which can mix with muscles.
- 3D Microvasculature in tissue chunks which when implemented with mice tissue successfully integrated with blood vessels.
The research is focused to generate transplants that are identical to the recipient anatomically and genetically.
This can reduce the transplant rejections, and the need for a donor, and reduce the cost and time of the transplantation process.
It’s predicted to take at least 15 to 20 years to print out completely functioning organs for clinical use.
In the near future, we can expect simpler parts and tissues to be available.
It is the transplantation of living cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another. It was first done in 1964 by transplanting the Kidney from chimpanzees to humans.
In addition, Xenotransplants of small parts like heart valves from pigs have been happening for a long time, but now research is focused on growing an entire organ compatible with the recipient, in an animal (mostly pig).
Pigs have kidneys that are the same size as humans, but they will be straight up rejected by the immune system also they carry a virus i.e. Porcine endogenous retrovirus in their genes, that causes diseases in humans.
Image credit: FDA.gov
However, research is focused on genetically modifying these genes by using gene editing techniques like CRISPR to make the transplant more successful.
The ultimate need to reduce the search for donors makes this a good option but is highly debated in terms of ethics.
Transplanting a whole organ from a different species is still a long way and needs a lot of genetic modification before it can be a safer option.
Emerging stem cell technology has made it possible to grow human organs in other species, and this is called a human-animal chimera.
This helps in making patient-specific and immune-matched transplants that can be grown from the stem cells of the recipient in animal fetuses.
Animal bodies provide a suitable environment for organogenesis which generates organs more natural and biological.
As these are made from the recipient stem cells, they minimize the risk of immune rejection.
Rat and mouse chimera have been successful, where mouse embryos were injected with rat genes, which resulted in pancreas development with insulin production.
Research is going on to make human-pig chimeras for organ development with some success in 2017.
They were able to produce human cells in developing muscle cells and precursors for other organs in the human-pig chimera.
Genetic differences and because of differences in development schedules, it’s hard to integrate these two DNAs.
Genetic modification and understanding the difference in the development time of cells are required for better results and are being extensively worked on.
#4. ARTIFICIAL ORGANS
Artificial organs are devices that are being built to replace an organ or substitute for an organ till a transplant is found. It involves the production of human organs based on bionic principles.
For instance, a bivacor is a total artificial heart designed to take over a failing heart. It consists of a magnetic spinning disc that pumps blood to both lungs and the body simultaneously.
It is designed for minimum friction between parts and hence can go on forever.
Image credit: nytimes.com
This device has been successfully tested in animal studies and is now moving toward human trials.
Other examples include organ precursors, such as vascularized adipose tissues, innervated/vascularized liver tissues, and multifunctional osseous tissues, that have been created successfully.
Development of more of this kind can reduce the need for a donor and can save the lives of many in immediate need of a transplant.
Although, the need for transplants is increasing and so is the search for artificial sources of organs. There is still a long way to develop technology to make organs and parts of it safe and scalable.
However, healthcare is utilizing technology to make it more accessible and advanced.
For instance, modern solutions like telemedicine, medical practice management software, and patient monitoring software are used for better care facilities.