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How Much Does A 3D Printed Organ Cost

How Much Does A 3D Printed Organ Cost

The thought of using 3D printing for organ transplantation seems futuristic but this can be pretty much achieved in our world today due to advancements in technology and medicine. With more research and investments by the government and private investors, the future of medicine and transplanting is 3D-printed organs.

Over time, the number of people waiting for either a heart, kidney, or liver transplant is greater than the number of organs ready to be used. This has then made many people wait for several years for someone to give up their organs. This major problem is what the 3D-printed organ system is all about.

Although the 3D organ printing system is very much in development, there are printers already available and being used to fill the void created by waiting for human organs before transplantation is possible. The 3D organ printing technology is done by printing scaffolds on cells, which in turn grow into full organ size over time. 

While this technology is gradually becoming acceptable in the medical and biological fields, it is usually not a cheap procedure. Many people are faced with the question of how much it costs for a 3D printed organ and these seem to push back the idea of even trying out the method.

In this article, we would discuss the usefulness of 3D organ printing in medicine, how much it costs for a procedure, and also its pros and cons. First, let's find out what 3D organ printing is all about.

What Is 3D Organ Printing?

3D organ printing is sometimes described as 3D bioprinting, and it involves a series of processes to create human organs that can be used for transplantation instead of the traditional way of taking a human organ and putting it into another. The organs printed by this method are referred to as "engineering organs."

Even though this 3D organ printing technology has been in existence for quite a several years, there is still so much research going on for its improvements in biology and medical use. However, successful use of 3D p3D-printed has been recorded for use.

How Does 3D Organ Printing Work?

The process of bioprinting, or 3D organ printing, involves the use of cells that are cultured to grow and eventually form organs ready to be used in transplantation. The step-by-step processes involved in 3D organ printing need to be carefully carried out with experienced researchers. These steps are outlined below: 

  1. Model creation: just as it is with a normal 3D printing process, the bioprinting method also starts first with creating a digital model which is then printed into a physical object, but with a higher resolution and matrix structure than when you make use of thermoplastics. The digital model printing process follows a layer-by-layer structure, even for organ printing.
  2. Printing: when the digital model of the proposed organ to be printed has been prepared, it is sent to the printer, which has already been sterilized. Bio ink is often used by researchers to print these organs. This is done by placing the bioink into the printer's cartridge to print a physical copy of the 3D organ that has already been created digitally. 
  3. Post printing: when the printing process is complete, the organ which has been printed is then stimulated and tested mechanically and chemically to show its functionality before use. Before the printed organs are implanted into the recipient, there is a need to test if it is the right match for the patient to prevent issues that are related to organ rejection.
  4. Organ growth: once the needed organ has been grown in a culture, there is a need to have enough cells to cover it, and that is where the scaffold can be used. The organ continues to grow until it has matured into a functioning organ, which can then be implanted.

For very complex organs, researchers may make use of the CT and MRI scans without the scaffolds to build the organs specific to the patient's data. Once created, the organ is placed into an incubator to allow it to fuse and become useful for implantation.

The Cost of 3D Printing Organs

Even as this cutting-edge technology seems to be the way out for many to get their organ transplant done as quickly as possible, the procedure does not come cheap. As the technology system continues to improve, so does the price of getting it done. There is also a rise in the cost of the materials needed for bioprinting organs. 

Most of the bioprinters used for 3D organ printing can cost an average of $100,000 while living tissues can be printed for about $1,000. The reason for the high cost of organ printing is the fact that it takes quite a long time to conduct the research and also the requirements of highly skilled and professional operators who would work to ensure the process becomes successful.

Bringing this 3D organ printing technology into the market has cost companies millions of dollars, with funds raised through private investors and other types of grants. Subsequently, there have been recorded operational losses in the testing and even while waiting for approval by the necessary regulatory agencies.

The Pros and Cons of 3D Bioprinting Organs

Bioprinting is an advanced technology that can save millions of lives of patients waiting for organ donors. Since the organs, particularly the heart, cannot be removed from a living person, this has accounted for the deaths of many. Organ bioprinting seeks to resolve this challenge in the medical field by making use of cutting-edge technology to print organs. Here are some of the pros and cons involved in the use of 3D organ printing in medicine.

The Pros of 3D Bioprinting

  • There is no need for animal testing because the organs printed are made compatible and have already been tested before printing.
  • 3D printed organs are built faster and are becoming a more reliable means of implantation to save lives.
  • 3D printed organs are healthy and safe to use, and they have been shown to improve human performance.
  • There is less likelihood of organ rejection by the patient's system after transplantation.
  • 3D organ printing technology can be used to print strong bones and also enhance the functionality of the tissues.
  • Increase oxygen levels in the blood by improving lung capacity.
  • Bioprinting of organs reduces the amount of waiting time and the risks to the lives of donors. 
  • Human organ trafficking can be greatly controlled with enough 3D-printed organs available for use. 

The Disadvantages of 3D Bioprinting Organs

  • The processes of 3D organ printing may affect the environment negatively by giving out harmful particles into the atmosphere.
  • There are currently rising debates that focus on the ethical issues of the bioprinting processes. 
  • The increased cost of materials used in bioprinting processes
  • There is still a need for more research to be conducted before the 3D-printed organs can be fully acknowledged for continuous usage.
  • There may be a lack of precision in droplet placement and the size of printed organs.
  • It takes quite a lot of energy for the 3D organs to be printed. 

Has There Been a Successful 3D Printed Organ Transplant?

The medical field has once recorded great success in the use of a 3D-printed organ for transplanting into a human. The first and only successful 3D printed organ used for transplant is the bladder.

This 3D organ transplant was carried out in the year 1999 and it was created by a group of scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The process took place by taking the tissue from the patient's human bladder, which was printed and then used to cover the patient's cells before being implanted.

In this way, the organ; bladder was able to grow and get cultured into a full organ. This procedure was carried out successfully and has since become a stepping stone for other subsequent research concerning the 3D organ printing technology in medicine and science. 

Other Medical Uses of 3D Printing

The medical and biomedical fields have made use of 3D printing technology in improving medicine and drugs for human use and this continues to be improved as the years go by. Aside from the use of 3D printing in organ printing, there are other advantages to using 3D printing technology. Let's list some of them here.

  • Tissue and organ fabrication
  • Creation of customized prosthetics, implants, and anatomical models
  • Drugs and pharmaceutical research 
  • Customization and personalization of some important medical products.
  • Improvement in equipment use and efficiency.
  • Increased medicare productivity, amongst others.

Conclusion

With more advanced studies and research, 3D organ printing would surely save the future of organ transplants. It would be a safer and cheaper method of organ transplantation if more investors and the government were readily available to work with the research. Currently, 3D organ printing may seem unaffordable to the average person, but with time and more years of research, 3D organ printing is the way forward in medicine.

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