Above: The Future Of Artificial Organ Transplants | The Age Of Artificial Organs | Why Do Organ Transplants Fail So Often?
Scientists are finding newer, cheaper, and safer ways to create artificial organs in ways that could reduce the wait for organ transplants and transform surgery as we know it today.
Welcome To The Age Of Artificial Organs
Scientists are successfully creating artificial hearts, livers, lungs, urethras, and more in laboratory settings. Although science must overcome many obstacles before these artificial organs enter everyday hospitals, amazing medical accomplishments have occurred during the past decade.
In 2006, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Boston, and Harvard Medical School successfully created artificial urinary bladders in a laboratory and transplanted them into patients. These bladders (which were grown in a small laboratory vessel from a sampling of the patient’s own cells) where transformative. Rather than being built from mechanical components, as previous artificial organs have been in the past, these organs came from lab cultured cells.
The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh is one of the world’s top research facilities for artificial organs, and a place where researchers are investigating functional artificial hearts, livers, and other organs.
These artificial livers are generated from a patient’s own cells or from artificial materials, and are designed as a temporary solution. By implanting these livers in sick patients, surgeons hope to create temporary solutions that save lives while patients wait for organ donations. Alternately, patients with liver damage could be implanted with temporary artificial livers to take the load off their damaged organs.
Above: Mini Human “Brain” Grown In A Laboratory.
Efforts are also underway to perfect bioartificial hearts at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The University of Pittsburgh implanted the second Jarvik artificial heart in the United States in the 1980’s and has never stopped innovating in this area. These days, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine researchers are focusing on advanced mechanical circulatory support devices that offer better patient quality of life after a heart transplant. Meanwhile, the famous Mayo Clinic is working on a different approach: generating bioartificial livers that use pig liver cells to filter patients’ blood.
Although artificial hearts have been successfully used since the 1980’s, and “organs-on-chips” like those produced by Harvard’s Wyss Institute have transformed pharmaceutical research and development, the biggest benefits for patients and scientists are yet to come in the near future. It would be a stretch to say that cloned organs will be easily available in the near future. Organs are highly complex structures, and even initially successful efforts face long regulatory hurdles. However, the techniques behind them are fueling medical research and development. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is expected to approve an artificial pancreas in the year 2018, which if successful, would for the first time let patients live their lives without self-monitoring their blood sugar levels.