The 3D imprinting of human tissues – a disputed innovation

Publié le : 14 February 2014

 3D prints currently available can be used to produce new objects including arms. One year ago, we also learned that living tissue could be imprinted from the human body. Some scientists view this as a revolutionary technique for off-setting the shortage of organs for transplant or clinical research.

The American start-up company, Organovo, which specialises in the design and imprinting of human tissues for research and therapeutic applications, "is on the brink of creating organs outside the human body". Its MD, Keith Murphy, explains the technology used: "The imprinting technician positions cells in the right place to turn a structure into living tissue""Blood vessels are one of the most complex things we have done". At the present time, tissues can live for 40 days outside the body and are used to test medicines.

Between now and December 2014, Organovo plans to launch living, imprinted liver tissue for the pharmaceutical industry. General research interests will focus on imprinting carcinogenic cells to study their development. The other interest in these imprinted organs for medical applications will be non-rejection during transplantations. "Today, patients undergoing organ transplantation have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives but if the organs were produced from the patients’ stem cells, the problem of rejection would no longer arise," explains Keith Murphy. Gartner Analyses is anticipating an explosion in terms of imprinted medical material requirements such as prostheses.

Certain questions have been raised: what will happen in the body when it comprises "more organs made from non-human cells?" Who will draft agreements to imprint such organs?  Who will be responsible for quality assurance? 

Pressing debates on the subject of 3D imprints should take all aspects of the subject into account, namely political, ethical and financial issues.

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