Some 130,000 organ transplants take place every year. That sounds like a lot, but that only covers about 10% of the transplants needed globally.
Just in the U.S alone, there are 107,000 patients on waiting lists for an organ transplant.
It’s a difficult situation, to wait around for someone to kick the bucket and pray they’re your match.
And even if the donor does meet your own biological makeup requirements, you have to be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of your life so that your body doesn’t reject the new organ.
But imagine making the new organ from your own cells.
It’s somewhat a scary concept, but imagine all the lives it could save if brought to life.
Thanks to this company and NASA, this dream could come to reality a lot more sooner than you’d think.
Last year, former U.S. Army battlefield-doctor-turned-NASA-astronaut Andrew Morgan created living tissue while orbiting above the Earth’s surface.
Morgan’s military days consisted of treating bodies torn and broken in explosions, leading him to conduct a series of experiments in outer space.
Cell by cell, Morgan manufactured the tissue using a 3D printer and “bio-ink.”
It looks like 3D printing tissue is a little tricky on the ground — gravity can cause it to collapse. A temporary organic scaffold is needed to hold everything in place during the printing process, which is why the lack of gravity 248 miles above the surface is where Morgan found his solution.
The International Space Station (ISS) served as testing grounds for the 3D BioFabrication Facility, which launched into orbit two years ago.
Using a patient’s own tissue to print human organs stemmed from a Nobel Prize-winning process from 2012.
The process consists of “reprogramming” cells to turn them into stem cells. When treated correctly, the stem cells could be induced to any chosen cell type.
When suspended in a hydrogel that is built into a scaffold to keep the structure from collapsing on itself, this allows the chosen cell type to be printed, and living tissue is created.
This process has already been applied successfully to animals. Skin transplants were the first step via biotech company Cellink (STO: CLNK-B), but they’re not stopping there. Printing blood vessels is on Cellink’s agenda.
Cellink was the first to commercialize bio-ink, but there were many efforts across the world made towards 3D printing organs.
The first human corneas were printed in 2018 at the University of Newcastle, a group at Tel Aviv University made a miniature heart made with tissue from a cardiac patient. This birthed the idea of cardiac patches to repair heart defects.
The heart is undoubtedly a delicate procedure, but if perfected, we could see fully functioning tissues and organs printed this way to be transplanted into humans in about 10-15 years.
Before we reach that mark, imagine going to a doctor about heart problems (one in three people die from cardiovascular disease) and the doctor is prepared with a 3D model of your exact heart. Simply printing a non-functional model of an individual’s organ would aid in lab and drug manufacturing.
Via The Scientist
A huge hurdle after successful functional organ printing would just be trying to meet demand. Remember, there are over 100,000 people in the country alone on a waiting list.
Cellink and BioLife Solutions (NASDAQ: BLFS) definitely lead in 3D bioprinting products.
BLFS makes products that freeze cells and tissue and bone marrow, BLFS’s CryoStor reduces the risk of any necrosis cells and tissue are vulnerable to.
Not only are bioprinted transplants close to being introduced to the medical world within the next few decades, but we’re also close to preserving the organs intended for transplant in case of any situations a patient may face.
BLFS, though still a budding company, is already exceeding expectations. Revenues have reached $110.4 million.
Losses are predicted to fall to $0.05 per share this year, a whopping 93% decrease.
Via Simply Wall Street
As for Cellink, it just launched its next generation of bioprinters: the BIO MDX series.
These printers have up to six print heads and are specifically designed to keep up with the climbing highs of the demand for cell-based technologies.
Further illustrating its commitment to the “bioconvergence revolution,” Hector Martinez, Cellink CTO, had this to say:
"Leveraging synergies across the group, this launch represents an important step toward developing systems and solutions that bring Cellink closer to patient care and creating the future of medicine. Biomedical manufacturing has desperately needed improved technologies, and the BIO MDX Series provides just that."
With a $22 billion market cap and shares trading on the Stockholm Nasdaq, the 25 years of research and development are bound to pay off, and the company will inevitably be traded publicly on the U.S Nasdaq.
The Waiting Game
As mentioned above, we have quite some time before organ printing is a traditional practice.
Globally, the market for 3D bioprinting organs is expected to expand 20.75% annually, reaching a $2.8 billion valuation by 2027. We are in a changing phase of medical science.
But keeping these two companies on your radar as they both continue to grow would benefit you greatly — all you have to do is be patient and keep up to date with their developments.
Don’t worry, there will be quite a few of them.
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