In the United States alone, more than 20 people die each day while waiting for transplants, the US Health Resources and Services Administration reports, and this desperate shortage is repeated worldwide. Even those fortunate enough to receive a new organ risk organ rejection, because the transplanted tissue is not their own.
But what if scientists could 3D-print new organs with a patients’ own cells, eliminating the need for donated organs and the risk of rejection? That’s exactly the path Boston-based CELLINK is pursuing, producing bioink and bioprinting technologies to advance the field.
“We’ve seen already some extremely successful cases,” CELLINK CEO Erik Gatenholm said. “For example, a human cornea was printed in the UK at Newcastle University. In the future, we might be able to transplant this into patients to treat corneal diseases, reducing the need for immunosuppressive drugs. This is a fantastic opportunity, and one of the major successes that is going to drive this industry forward.”
Transplants aren’t the only promising application for bioprinting, however. It also provides the perfect medium for testing the effects of medication on patients, before the drugs are administered.
“Let’s say, for instance, you have a patient with cancer,” Gatenholm said. “You could take that cancer patient’s cells, print out the tumor using our technology, and test different types and volumes of medication and see what works best. Of course, the question is when this is going to scale up to clinical use. But I believe that the technology has tremendous potential.”
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