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New Transplant Tech Boost Could Save the Lives of Millions of Patients

3D Bio Therapeutics
A 3D bioimplant of an earlobe. Photograph: 3D Bio Therapeutics/AFP/Getty Images

Thanks to breakthroughs in organ storing and 3D-printed bioimplants, more patients could undergo organ transplants over the next decade.

Swiss surgeons used a revolutionary machine to maintain a human liver viable outside the body for three days before reimplanting it in a patient.

In addition, surgeons in the United States use a 3D printer to construct a replacement ear from a patient’s own cells.

These improvements may provide a boost to the bioimplant industry.

Organ Storage

Using sophisticated equipment, surgeons claim to have successfully transplanted a donor’s liver by maintaining it warm and alive outside the human body for three days.

The normothermic perfusion method provides a constant blood flow to the organ, which experts believe is preferable to the usual method of keeping it on ice. The Swiss scientists informed the journal Nature Biotechnology that it may extend the viability to ten days.

A year later, the individual who underwent the transplantation of warm liver is doing well. Because storing tissues and organs at low temperatures can cause significant cell damage, experts expect that the breakthrough will significantly reduce the number of donated organs discarded.

Extending the time a donor liver can be stored would also allow more flexibility in the transplant procedure’s schedule. Cooled livers are only viable for 12 hours.

In addition to blood, the machine can supply medications or other nutrients to ensure that the organ is in the best possible condition before the transplant.

Because he had cancer, the man who received the liver – which was plugged into the perfusion machine for 68 hours – required a new one. The donor organ was extracted from its original owner, a 29-year-old lady who died in May 2021, four days before his surgery. After 12 days in the hospital, the man was able to return home.

Doctors believe additional research is required, including more patients and longer study periods, but the results thus far appear to be very promising. They told Nature Biotechnology, “We believe that this first transplantation success…can open new possibilities in treating many liver illnesses.”

Some of the United Kingdom’s seven liver transplant facilities have also begun to use the same technology, and specialists at Oxford University plan to evaluate the results as part of the PLUS study.

3D Printing Living Tissue

According to reports, a woman’s external ear was repaired using a 3D-printed living tissue implant in what looks to be the first attempt of its kind.

People with microtia, a rare congenital disorder in which one or both outer ears are missing or incompletely formed, can benefit from the technique.

The transplant was performed in March on a 20-year-old Mexican lady who was born with a small and malformed right ear, reported the New York Times.

A 3D bioimplant of an earlobe. Photograph: 3D Bio Therapeutics/AFP/Getty Images, the firm behind the implants, announced the reconstruction but did not reveal any further information on the device or treatment.

“The implant was made up of a 3D-printed collagen hydrogel scaffold and the patient’s own cartilage cells,” said the business in its news release. “The construct is produced in a size and shape that matches the patient’s opposite ear for implantation.”

“As a clinician who has treated thousands of children with microtia worldwide throughout the country, I am motivated by what this technology may signify for microtia patients and their families,” said Dr. Arturo Bonilla, the surgeon who conducted the treatment. This research will allow us to look at the safety and aesthetic aspects of a new ear rebuilding process that uses the patient’s cartilage cells.”

While long-term monitoring of patients who receive the implants is required, 3DBio’s CEO, Dr. Daniel Cohen, called the technology’s real-world deployment “a genuinely historic event.” He expressed optimism that the clinical experiment could have implications beyond microtia.

“Our initial indications are in the reconstructive and orthopedic sectors, such as addressing severe nose deformities and spinal degeneration,” he explained.

“We’re excited to use our technology to address other high-impact, unmet medical needs, such as lumpectomy reconstruction, and eventually expand to organs,” says the company.

Bioimplants and improved organ storage could both assist in reducing the number of individuals who die on organ waiting lists.