3D printing medical organs – Myth or reality?

Long established new trending topic of 3D printing and it’s dealing with healthcare industry is a lot in talk nowadays. 3D printing has captured the healthcare domain by enabling tissue culture, development of research studies being conducted on many neurological diseases and many more countless possibilities that it has in medical industry. 3D printing medical advances has gained public scrutiny by 3D medical organs being generated. 3D printing medical advances was first established when a 3 year old child survived a kidney transplant, using 3D printing. With the advancement in technology in today’s time, the number of diseases and ailments has also increased exponentially. Doctors might be able to create organs, ready for transplantation, with a simple ‘Print’ command. It was believed that it might take years to become a reality, plenty of research is currently underway on the use of 3D printers for bio-printing of deep tissue. However, in February 2016, there was a breakthrough when researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina, USA, reported that they had been able to keep a 3D printed baby-sized ear alive on a mouse. [Source]

3D printed organs transplant

With the rise in organ failures and requirement of transplant, the between need of organs and the lack of donors that readily come forth is quiet huge. To overcome the tremendous gap, the study in technology of 3D printing by medical researchers and post close examination, it was seen fir to introduce 3D printed organs. EVERY year about 120,000 organs, mostly kidneys, are transplanted from one human being to another. Sometimes the donor is a living volunteer. Usually, though, he or she is the victim of an accident, stroke, heart attack or similar sudden event that has terminated the life of an otherwise healthy individual. But a lack of suitable donors, particularly as cars get safer and first-aid becomes more effective, means the supply of such organs is limited. Many people therefore die waiting for a transplant. That has led researchers to study the question of how to build organs from scratch. [Source]

How does 3D printing organs work

You wake up feeling fatigued and unwell. Over the previous couple days, you experienced abdominal pain and swelling. After a medical consultation, your AI-infused robotic doctor concludes your liver is diseased. If left untreated, you’ll get sick and eventually die.You need a liver transplant, but here’s the kicker: You won’t sign up to join an organ transplant list, wherein demand for organs far outstrips supply of organs to the point that 22 people die every day waiting for organs. Such lists are now a thing of the past. Instead, cells will be taken from your body — stem cells that have the unique power of differentiating into any kind of cell. These cells will be sent to a lab where they are coaxed into becoming the different types of cells comprising a human liver. Next, a bioprinter assembles the cells onto a scaffold layer by layer to generate a new liver. The liver matures in an incubator mimicking the body until it is deemed ready for transplant. The end result? You receive a fully-functional, structurally sound liver. The replacement organ contains all necessary systems to transfer oxygen and nutrients to keep liver cells alive and has the right composition of different liver cells in the right proportions. And critically, because its cells come from you, your immune system won’t reject it. [Source]

3D printing organs pros and cons


  1. Faster and more precise than traditional methods of building organs by hand.

  2. Less prone to human error.

  3. Less laborious for scientists.

  4. Organs unlikely to be rejected after transplantation.

  5. Reduced organ trafficking.

  6. Decreased waiting times for organ donors.

  7. Decreased animal testing.

  8. Finished products are independent of biomaterial or scaffolding absent in native tissues.

  9. Effects of disease states or drugs may be more accurately observed without the need for human subjects.

  10. Reproducitibility of tissue is ensured through tight control of both composition and geometry; reduced variability.

  11. Well-organized, diverse cell types allow enhancement of tissue-specific functions.


  1. Questions of liability if a printed object fails.
  2. Disputed ownership of the codes and implants produced.
  3. Various ethical concerns.
  4. Pricing; availability to only the wealthy.
  5. Consumption of large amounts of energy.
  6. Emission of unhealthy particles into the air.
  7. Difficulty in maintaining cell environment, resulting in the death of many cells. [Source]

3D printing organs ethics

Experts can only speculate at this point as to the possible outcomes of this technology and how soon in the future the technology could be developed. Scientists believe complex organs, skin, and cosmetic apparatuses will all be able to be printed in the not-too-distant future. I believe this technology can do so much good and help so many that we should not deny people this opportunity simply because they may somehow not fit the definition of human anymore because they have an engineered organ.  The same argument could be applied to those with cosmetic implants, prosthetics and pacemakers. I wonder if the outcomes of this technology will not only have effects on the people who use it, but also on people who have other medical alterations such as cosmetic surgery, prosthetics, and other surgeries. Will the perceptions of these people be altered?Enhancement is a more difficult ethical issue. While advancing mankind is a worthy and laudable goal, the use of bio-printing simply to enhance performance or well being creates the potential for further separating the “haves” from the “have not’s.”  For example, is someone with a perfectly healthy set of lungs equally as eligible for a bio-printed lung as someone who suffers lung disease simply because we have the technology to create those lungs?

Another troubling issue is the potential for people to take the technology for granted and fail to maintain their health knowing that “replacement parts” are available.  The life-saving possibilities bio-printing presents must not be denied because of such potential misuse. Indeed, the overwhelming promise this new technology presents far outweighs the possible downsides.  Not only will bio-printing allow recipients to receive organs they need and might otherwise not receive, but it will also relieve the burden on the current organ donor system.

Bio-printing is a significant health care issue, many aspects of which have not yet been explored. This paper focused on two main ethical issues: how bio-printing will affect the “human-ness” of its recipients, and whether it should be regulated based on two subcategories: treatment versus enhancement, and how the person has come to need the organ. However, there are so many other areas of concern that need to be analyzed as this technology continues to be developed. [Source]

References: organ printing, how 3d printing could revolutionise organ transplantation,printable organs will put an end to transplant lists, 3d bioprinting 10 things you should know about how it works, 3d bioprinting

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