An organ is a group of tissues doing the same function and are most commonly found in plant and animal life. An artificial organ is a human made organ device or tissue that is implanted into a human interfacing with living tissue in order to replace a natural organ, to duplicate a specific function or functions so the patient may live healthily.
Why do we need Artificial Organs?
The need for the development of artificial organs arises from the lack of availability of real organs required for transplants. And the reason for that is because an organ can be transplanted only after a person dies and those who are willing or able to donate do not line up in large numbers. Thus, science decided to develop a machine to fill in the places of the most in-demand organs these days. It is not always required for essential organs like the heart or the liver but also for various other body parts like in bones or knee or hip replacement surgeries. One of the most successful examples of artificial organs is the innovation of dialysis.
How are Artificial Organs Developed?
Artificial organs are divided on the basis of the material used to create them. There are three main classes for this division, which are (1) mechanical, made of inanimate polymers (example plastics) and/or metals; (2) biomechanical, made of partially living cells and inanimate polymers and/or metals; and (3) biological (i.e., bioartificial), made of living cells, biodegradable polymers and/or metal elements. There are several ways by which artificial organs can be developed and, in this article, we shall look at 3 of them and the impact they have created in the health industry.
The first and the foremost method of developing artificial organs is 3D Printing. With the development of technology all over the globe, 3D printing is seen as the future of many industries. Through this method scientists print out a scaffold of the organ that they wish to build with a synthetic material. 3D printing is still in its infant stage where only small body parts like tissues have been printed, but researches predict that it will be a crucial mechanism for organ transplants in the near future. Dr. Saverio La Francesca, chief medical officer for Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, a Massachusetts biotech company that makes products for creating regenerated organs highlighted that the obvious advantage of the development of this technology is that it enables the mould to be printed in any shape and thus a wide spectrum of organs can be formed.
Another technology called Electrospinning is what is presently more prevalent than 3D printing. Through this technique, nanofibers one-hundredth the width of a human hair is assembled into a custom organ scaffold. A scaffold made this way can be put into a bioreactor which is a biologically supported environment for two days, and rotated so that its surface becomes soaked in cells from a patient’s bone marrow. 5 people had already received organ transplants till the year 2014. The advantage that electrospinning holds over 3D printing is that it is more accurate and according to a scientist even if it is using science to build and organ, it still remains a piece of art.
Another popular method of creating artificial organs is by using Bioartificial Organ Manufacturing Technologies which can be used in degrees like fully-automated, semi-automated and handmade. There are four basic steps for an organ manufacturing process: (1) architectural predesign; (2) preparation of materials and construction tools; (3) homogeneous/heterogeneous cell assembling (or integration); (4) post multi-tissue maturation. One of the ways in which this technology is put into use is by combining multi-nozzle three-dimensional printing techniques to automatically assemble personal cells along with other biomaterials to build exclusive organ substitutes for patients.
Scope and Impact of Artificial Organs
So far, scientists have successfully created 3D-bio printed several organs, including a thyroid gland, a tibia replacement that’s already been implanted into a patient, as well as a patch of heart cells that actually beat. For the last 30 years, bioinert materials have become used routinely to replace more than 40 different parts of the human body.
Nowadays, life expectancy follows an ascending trend due to the advent of artificial organs. Tissue engineering is a pioneer in developing novel materials for duplicating the organ functions. Experts believe we may be nearing an era where organ transplantation will no longer be necessary. A scientist from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, told The Telegraph, “I think within ten years we won’t see any more heart transplants, except for people with congenital heart damage, where only a new heart will do,”
What does the Future look like?
Researchers explain that with the development of various technologies the need for organs to be transplanted or as far as donated would eventually decrease. There is an extremely bright future for science and mechanics in the health industry which ranges from in house treatment facilities like dialysis or life support but also exceeds to letting the patients live independently by giving them a functioning heart or pancreas or whichever organ that is no functioning.
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An aspiring civil servant, a curious mind but also an avid binge watcher- Prerna is currently pursuing BA Prog in English and Political Science from Kirori Mal College. She belongs to Chandigarh but really enjoys the hustle of Delhi. Her favourite pastime is taking naps and recognises herself as a pro at it.