3D artificial organs are now being produced and used to save people’s lives. This news was featured as the February 2020 cover story for Nanoscale, an international journal of nanomaterials published by the Royal Society of England. Park Soo-ah, a chief researcher of the Nano genesis Mimicking Laboratory at the Korea Institute of Machinery, and Kwon Sung-geun, a professor in the Ear, Nose and Throat(ENT) department at Seoul National University Hospital, developed the new technology to produce replacement organs for those in urgent need of a transplant. Specifically, their development of a '3D tube-type artificial organ' is being used to effectively treat patients with organ stenosis or organ failure which until now, hasn’t been an available treatment for patients in need.
So what exactly is a 3D tube type artificial organ? Using biodegradable material, suitable for humans, The Korea Institute of Machinery and Technology developed an artificial trachea to treat patients with organ stenosis and deficits that had no alternative treatments. They did this by fusing 3D bio printing technology and electro-radiation to create a 3D tube-type artificial organ that could reliably deliver drugs to improve the patient’s physical strength and help regenerate their organ tissue. More specifically, 3D printing technology was used to vacuum-metalize filaments into tube type nanofiber produced by electro-radiation, so that the structure could be stabilized. In addition, by modifying several stages of the tube’s surface, a drug called 'dexamethasone' known for improving organ cartilage regeneration and suppressing inflammation, was also incorporated into the design to assist in the function of the 3D artificial organs. Dexamethasone, which is a type of corticosteroid drug listed on the list of essential drugs, is a U.S. FDA-approved steroid used to treat diseases such as arthritis, allergies, and asthma.
How significant is this development? The organ is a tube-shaped structure that connects from the neck, just under the larynx or voice box, to the chest at the sternum. The trachea then divides into the bronchi which are attached to each lung. Since the organ is directly connected to breathing, failure of the transplant could mean among other things, respiratory failure. Many research teams have created and transplanted artificial devices that replaced needed organs, but either re-stenosis occurred in sutures inside the body or the physical strength of the artificial device was inadequate and failed to secure the patient’s airway and regenerate the organ. However, this 3D bio printing technology has enabled scientists to include in their production of the artificial organ, the necessary drugs needed to adapt and heal, and produce customized artificial organs suitable for the the gender or age of the bronchial patient. In other words, this 3D tube type artificial organ is a miraculous invention for patients suffering from bronchial diseases not only in Korea, but also around the world.
The research included the development of 3D printing system and support process technology able to produce leaf-stacking structures for the Korean Research Foundation's biomedical technology development projects ensuring the 3D printing technology will be further utilized in future medical technology developments. So far, there are a variety of medical technologies and devices using 3D printing technology, three of which are typical. For instance, an artificial ear can be produced using 3D technology. Researcher embed inductive coils made of nanoparticle alloy, in the device which allows signals to be processed from cochlear-shaped electrodes. This 3D printed ear then has the same function as the human ear. Second, using 3D printing technology, artificial cartilage was invented to replace human cartilage often damaged by injury during exercise or even lost during knee surgeries. Finally, surgeons at the University of Wittrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands developed a 3D printed artificial skull, saving a female patient who a skull three times thicker than the average human.
Future development of Korean medical technology using 3D printing is promising for several reasons. This technology is already capable of manufacturing complex shapes that were previously unworkable and it reduces production times and costs. However, it can also produce many different types of medical devices. With this in mind, it is expected that advances in medical technology, such as the further development of innovative artificial organs by Korean researchers, will continue through 3D printing technology.
|▲ 3D tube-type artificial organ (Trachea) that can effectively treat patients with organ stenosis and deficits without alternative treatments. (photo from Yonhapnews).|
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