As humans have evolved, so too has our understanding of our bodies and how we can enhance, repair or extend life. Since the dawn of time, humanity has encountered disease and other external circumstances that require medical innovation and care. Even for seemingly irreplaceable parts of the body and organs, we have a knack for enhancing, extending and saving lives by any means necessary.
Two other constants throughout human history are accidents and conflict, both of which can cause people to lose arms, legs and other limbs. Roman history tells of a general named Marcus Sergius, who after losing his hand in battle around 200 B.C. had a prosthetic fashioned out of iron, to allow him to hold his shield and return to battle. Prosthetics have come a long way since Sergius’ iron hand and help many people restore mobility and even compete in Paralympic games for athletes with impairments, and Olympic games.
The first human-to-human organ transplant was performed in 1954, as a team of surgeons successfully transplanted a kidney in Boston, Massachusetts. The science of inserting one human’s organ into another human has grown since then, and many different kinds of organs – including hearts – are transplanted to extend and save human lives. While many procedures have been performed since the first, they still rely on the availability of human donors to generate a supply of organs. Many people simply choose not to be organ donors while others’ organs may be incompatible with certain recipients. In any case, there is still a shortage of human organs available for transplant and many people die each year waiting for them.
3D printing is a young science compared to many medical developments, but it has already significantly impacted humanity and has the potential to create even more change. 3D printing technology first appeared in the 1980’s and was primarily used to affordably create devices and prototypes. Much of the innovation involving 3D printing is now in healthcare as researchers have even created new ears for children using their own cells in 3D printed molds. Surgeons are also making 3D printed models from scans to practice surgeries, particularly for infants and children. The ability to create medical solutions and organs using 3D printing means it has tremendous potential to solve the aforementioned organ shortage.
Next: 3D bioprinted human hearts
BIOLIFE4D is working to 3D bioprint human organs – particularly hearts – to save lives by making more available for transplant. We will soon complete a miniature version of a human heart, which we will then be able to scale up to a full-size heart. With that, we hope both to provide hearts for those at risk of heart disease and for those whose lives are threatened by existing heart disease. If you want to participate in this undertaking, you can invest in our efforts and what we hope will go down as one of the greatest medical innovations in human history.