As an integral part of the medical field, an organ transplant procedure involves searching for a donor (either living or deceased) that satisfactorily meets the criteria, removing the organ from the said individual, and finally surgically placing such into the person who has a damaged or failing organ. This allows the recipient to have a renewed chance in life and to potentially overcome one’s severe medical condition. Unfortunately, in the present generation, the demand for organs far exceeds the available supply. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 107,000 men, women, and children who are on the transplant waiting list with one being added every nine minutes. 17 people on that list succumb to their illnesses because they become victims of the shortage and are unable to receive the much-needed organ. Therefore, there are continuous technological advancements in this field in order to solve this problem which would improve and save more lives. The following are some of the remarkable innovations that are taking enormous strides towards the goal:
Portable Hypothermic Machine Perfusion
The traditional way of transporting an organ from one location to another is by utilizing a cooler filled with ice in order to preserve the organ. However, this is not an optimal method as the cooler is not equipped with any systems and algorithms that would aid the handlers in maintaining the appropriate temperature and monitoring any complications. Therefore, the portable hypothermic machine perfusion is created to ensure that the organs would be kept in the best condition during the delivery. Equipped with a programmable display, one would be able to observe accurate real-time data regarding the temperature, pressure, cross-clamp, and infusion time as well as a hepatic, portal, and total blood flow. In addition, there is a mechanism that would properly circulate the cold solution in which the organ would be. Furthermore, the device is capable of performing precise dual hepatic and portal perfusion.
With the portable hypothermic machine perfusion, the donated organs would be able to reach further and more remote locations because it could sustain the prolonged travel duration. More people would become recipients and fewer organs would be discarded. Additionally, the device hopes to decrease the complications brought by the transplant procedure and to enhance the recipient’s recovery rate.
Bioink and 3D Printed Organs
A new form of ink has been produced to strengthen durability and increase the function of the 3D printed organs. Through a concoction of alginate and extracellular matrix, the bioink is able to form tissues and organs that would encourage the growth and development of cells and blood vessels. Additionally, it can be utilized in building small scaffolds like the patient’s small airways and tubes of the lungs.
With a computer-aided design (CAD) in constructing a replica of an organ, the printer would utilize a fine, precise tip that ascends and prints from the bottom layer of the design. However, it is still incapable of fully recreating the intricacies and cell densities of a human organ.
One example would be the bioprinted cornea in which ink produced from corneal stroma tissue is utilized to replicate the original cornea’s transparency. Researchers discovered that with one healthy cornea, there would be the production of up to 50 artificial ones. This is a major breakthrough especially since the cornea is the most transplanted tissue in the United States. However, this 3D-printed cornea is still being improved because there is difficulty in searching for a thin consistency of ink and the proper materials that would create a concave shape. Another striking example would be the 3D-printed heart ventricle. Although it is a small model for now, it is functioning with complete blood vessels. It is made using ink with a gelatin-like consistency because as the cellular matrix hardens and solidifies, the ink would be liquified. This would be removed which creates space for the blood to flow.
Portable Total Artificial Heart Implant
In the situation that a person is unable to secure a donated heart, the portable total artificial heart implant could be a viable option. This plastic device has its own battery unit and can be utilized by patients with biventricular heart failure because it maintains the overall blood flow. This is achieved through surgically removing the heart’s ventricles and allowing the tubes of the said apparatus to replace such. However, it is notable to mention that this is just a temporary fix until a suitable donor heart becomes available.
It is clear that the medical field is steadily progressing towards a brighter future where people would not worry about the lack of access to the necessary donated organs. These advancements would encourage scientists and medical professionals to enhance the features of the existing technology and to develop novel equipment. The future of organ transplant awaits!
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