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Question About 3D Printing and Cancerous Liver

  1. Apr 10, 2015 #1
    With all the hype of 3D printed organs lately, I've wondered: let's say that someone with terminal cancer in the liver undergoes a liver transplant with a completely new 3D printed organ. Assuming that this was the only organ affected, would this rid them of the cancer? If so, why? And if not, why not?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2015 #2


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    If the cancer had not spread beyond the liver and the in vitro grown replacement liver was perfectly healthy then yes: they would be cured. Bear in mind though that we're still not ready to start producing replacement organs this way. There are very few regenerative medicine products on the market and whilst there have been some transplants (like this trachea operation) we cannot yet reliably produce healthy organs.
  4. Apr 10, 2015 #3


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    That's what we're counting on you for, Ryan! :smile:
  5. Apr 10, 2015 #4
    That's an Ikea synthetic nano-throat, not a real organ with living cells. I dear say not quite organ-like, as questioned. Some road to be paved, I expect. Not principally impossible, though pig organs may be more realistic, for now.
  6. Apr 10, 2015 #5


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    The trachea was a synthetic polymer loaded with cells taken from the patient, it was biological in nature.
  7. Apr 10, 2015 #6
    Well, still a synthetic implement, though human cells grew on it. Which is good.
  8. Apr 10, 2015 #7
    I'd imagine that if we were able to reliably build fully functional 3D printed organs, survival rates for cancer would be higher (assuming that you didn't get cancer in a body part that isn't replaceable, like the brain for example).

    I don't want to stray too far off topic, but would the same principle apply for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)? That's a major killer, and if we simply replaced the heart or even arteries with biologically printed parts then that should, in principle, prevent heart attacks, heart disease, etc. (although it would still affect smaller arteries).

    Again, this is assuming that we are able to build RELIABLE 3D printed body parts.
  9. Apr 11, 2015 #8


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    I think taking arteries out and replacing them, even if you had a reliable replacement, would likely be such a major trauma to the body that is would not be workable.

    I am reminded of some information I gave to my heart doctor. "If you were to take all the veins and arteries out of my body and stretch them end to end ... I would die, so don't DO that !"
  10. Apr 11, 2015 #9
    Hahaha, I'm totally saying that at my next doctor's appointment.
  11. Jun 16, 2015 #10
    Let's see if I can remember from my biology text. Organs are made up of different tissues, which are made up of different cells. At the very least, a liver is going to need liver cells (obviously), it's also going to need nerve cells, and cells that make up the walls of the capillaries, arteries and veins, as well as the cells making up the bile ducts. I'm not saying you can't print an organ yet; but you're going to need a lot more than just 4 cell reservoirs for all the different types. What I can see is a combination of printing for the organ scaffolding and maybe simple vascularization that would allow the body to regenerate the organ from donor cells. Not simple, but then nothing worth while is tha simple anyway.

    I am NOT a Doctor of Medicine. Take any advice with a pound of salt. (Or maybe not salt. Don't want to raise your blood pressure!)
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