Shortage of organs for transplantation has been one of the most challenging endeavor that patients, families and health care providers face today. But now, a possible novel answer to organ shortage has arrived: 3D printing of substitute organs.

Numerous measures have been implemented to widen the pool of organ donors all across the U.S. Interventions to address the problem of organ shortage include national programs to heighten deceased donor donation, paired donor exchanges and split organ donation, among many others.

Actions to hasten public awareness, enhance efficiency of donation mechanism and standardize donation policies have resulted in remarkable rates of organ obtainment and ultimately, transplantation.

Despite well-efforted approaches, more than 4,000 Americans are still currently waiting in line to receive heart donations alone. Patients with severe cardiovascular diseases and deteriorating hearts, are left with no choice but to wait for donors because unlike other organs, heart tissues cannot repair itself once damaged.

Now, researchers from Carnegie Mellon may have finally found a possible way to solve organ donation challenges through 3D printing. If their work becomes fully established, organs may soon be replaced with 3D-printed substitutes, rendering transplantation obsolete in the future.

Conventional 3D printers create hard materials, most commonly made of metal or plastic. Object layers are intricately built one after the other, with each layer relying on the layers below for support. With this, printing using soft materials that resemble soft tissue organs are very limited. However, Carnegie Mellon were able to make it possible.

Adam Feinberg, an associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the university said that they were able to obtain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of coronary arteries and 3D images of embryonic hearts, and 3D bioprint it using soft materials such as fibrins, collagen and alginates.

James Garrett, Dean of the university's College of Engineering said their researchers persist to create contemporary answers such as bioprinting for challenges that can have tremendous impacts on society.

"We should expect to see 3D bioprinting continue to grow as an important tool for a large number of medical applications," he closed.

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