Skip to comments.Hearts - the next stage of the 3D printing revolution: This medical miracle is shockingly close
Posted on 01/30/2014 3:45:26 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
I have seen the future your future if youre rich enough or brave enough to embrace it and I have to tell you, its weird.
Imagine this: its 2025 and youre getting on, feeling your knees a bit. Youre bending over one day to pick up junk mail when you feel a terrible pain in your chest. You call 999 and within the hour (in this ideal world) youre in hospital under the knife. But this isnt heart surgery youre having, its bottom surgery: the doctors taking a chunk of fat from your bum.
Have they made a terrible mistake? No they have not. While you lie in your bed coming round, elsewhere in a lab scientists are sifting through the fat calls, looking for special regenerative ones and starting to reprogram them to cajole them (dont ask me how) into becoming new young heart cells.
That done, your future doc walks over to a glass box containing what looks like a printer, but one that squirts living cells instead of ink. The doc presses start and the machine begins to drop the newly made heart cells in place, building them up in layers. Just 24 hours later, there in the glass box is a heart: a whole, bloody beating heart; your own second, spare-part heart ready for transplant.
Before your children have even made it to the hospital with flowers and a Kindle, youre in theatre again and the surgeon is swapping your dicky ticker for this freshly printed one. Before the month is out, youre frisking about, good for another half century, and how your kids feel about that is neither here nor there.
Do you believe that? I didnt at first it took a lesson in basic biology before I understood quite how possible it is. Did you know, for instance, that each muscle cell in your heart has its own heartbeat? If I took five or six cells from your heart and spaced them out on a slide under a microscope, Id see the little things convulsing like fish out of water. Second (and this is what seems to me miraculous) if I then pushed those cells together so that they touched, their different beats would start to synchronise: the cluster of cells would recognise each other and begin to beat as one. In front of me, in effect, would be a little scrap of your living heart. I hadnt quite understood, I dont think, the longing of living cells to pull together. Its not scientists wholl print a heart really come 2025, its the cells themselves obeying their own internal orders.
Around the world theres a quiet but intense competition going on to print the first heart a heart race like the moon race. And as with the moonshot, Americas in the lead. The Neil Armstrong figure here is a very gung-ho-sounding professor called Stuart K. Williams at the University of Louisville, and the reason I set your heart attack in 2025 is because thats when Stuarts claims hell be ready to print: America put a man on the moon in less than a decade. I can print a heart in that time. He adds: And I said a full decade to provide some wiggle room. Hes a bit of a cowboy, Stuart K.
Hot on his heels is Dr Doris Taylor at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, or Dr Frankenstein as she is affectionately known. Dr Doris doesnt aim to start from scratch; she begins by taking a heart from a cadaver, then washes it free of its previous owners cells, leaving a white heart-shaped skeleton of collagen behind ghost hearts, these are called, for more reasons than one. Dr Doris plans to coat these collagen skeletons with a transplant patients newly minted, living heart cells. I think of Dr Doris sometimes in her Houston lab surrounded by ghost hearts, willing them to beat.
Also thinking of Dr Doris, Ill bet my bottom dollar, are todays elderly billionaires. Will the new hearts be ready before theirs give out? Warren Buffett for instance will be 95 in 2025; Rupert Murdoch 94. Even that irrepressible goblin Sir Richard Branson will be heading for 80 and its inconceivable that hes not up to speed with, or perhaps investing in, the very latest immortality tech.
Its this, if anything, that puts a dampener on my enthusiasm: what if heart printing becomes the preserve of billionaires? What if the already extraordinary gap between rich and poor deepens into a divide between those who live for centuries and those who dont? Imagine a world in which the same wizened few make the same headlines decade after decade, as more mortal mortals rise and fall around them.
Best not dwell on that, I suppose, and there are already good reasons to be cheerful about this new ability to print with cells. Soldiers with awful injuries can now have their own new skin printed right there in a field hospital and the skin will graft perfectly because its their own.
Its a safe bet that soon well all be testing our meds on tiny living patches of our own heart, liver, kidney. No more pesky side effects for you and think of the great boon to mice. Its a depressing business reading medical science: Heart attacks induced in week-old mice showed The same mice, if exposed to radiation Grow a tumour on a baby mouse brain and A world with no need for animal testing has got to be a better one.
Just I was coming round to this version of the future, and the thought of a centuries-long life, the unstoppable Stuart K. threw spanner in the works. He said in an interview: Dare I say the heart is one of the easiest organs to bioprint? Its just a pump with tubes you need to connect. A kidney is much more complex
and then the brain! The brain? What does that mean? Could you ever print a brain? Whose self would inhabit a printed brain? Some futures are perhaps best left alone, for the present.
Small livers at first but I’m of the opinion that some who’s liver is failing would benefit from even a small liver. We have a church member who’s liver is going. I would live to see the printed liver make it to the surgery room soon.
Three-D printers arent quite up to that level of sophistication yet.
The last person we reassembled was Darksheare, and that was ... problematic.
The first 3D printed organ — a liver — is expected in 2014
Bioprinting human organs and tissue: Get ready for the great 3D printer debate
I wouldn't mind a spleen to go with it, but for sure the kidney.
Too late for Mickey Mantle.
I could use a new thumbnail.
More livers for us ex-hippies please!
And lungs for us smokers too.
All cutting edge innovations start out like that. It used to be that only the very rich had cell phones. There will be enough of a market to create economies of scale.
The issue is the vascular system, and the linings. Those are rather more complicated.
Really, you think? That would be good news since mine is full of Captain Morgan's.
Eventually it will be simple for even auto mechanics to change out a heart. Change the oil every 4,000 miles and install a new heart every 5,000 hours. And both while you wait.
How about chicken livers? Cheaper to grow or print?
Goose Liver Pate’ ?
Around the world theres a quiet but intense competition going on to print the first heart
In two years or so I think a very public competition will commence between several countries to be the first to produce a lftr thorium reactor.
Will obamacare cover this?
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