It’s been 50 years since Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human-to-human heart transplant in South Africa – a procedure that would forever change the way heart disease is treated. Over the last half-century we’ve seen continued innovation in organ transplantation, from tissue typing to the discovery of immunosuppressant drugs, leading to a longer survival rate for transplant recipients.
Still, there is much work to be done. Organ supply falls far short of demand – at any given time there are more than 100,000 Americans alone on the waiting list for heart transplants, with only about 2,000 performed in the U.S. each year – and organ rejection is still a major obstacle the industry must overcome. However there is a promising new technology currently under development – 3D bioprinting – that could change the course of treatment forever.