Could Human Organs And Tissues Be The Next Frontier Of Manufacturing?

manufacturingAs 3D printing technologies and new materials open the doors for increasingly complex products, we’re on the verge of manufacturing life-saving products that could alter the course of history.

Biofrabrication, the manufacturing of tissues and organs, is already a real concept, and it is getting closer to market. Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, founded the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute last year and said it has since formed many alliances to further the technology. ARMI currently has agreements with more than 80 partners, including 26 medical schools. The institute has so far raised nearly $300 million in government and private investments to refine the technology.

“We are going to learn to do the manufacturing of human organs in real time,” Kamen told CNBC.com. “I am assuming the scientific community can deliver these miracles…We are assuming they can deliver to use the recipe [for those] that we [allows us to] make one. We think it doesn’t require any new miracle from the worlds of engineering and manufacturing.”

“3D printing and additive manufacturing has enabled manufacturers to more easily make custom and precision parts with a high level of detail.”

Due to the logistics and time-sensitivity, the transplantation of organs remains challenging. There are approximately 120,000 people on the organ donor wait list and wait times can run from four months to a heart to more than 5 years for a kidney. Having the ability to produce comparable organs and tissues on demand could saving thousands of lives and revolutionize healthcare. It could also be a lucrative market for the manufacturing pioneers that enter the space.

The concept is not that far-fetched. 3D printing and additive manufacturing has enabled manufacturers to more easily make custom and precision parts with a high level of detail.

There are already several 3D-bioprinting companies bringing machines to market. The BioAssemblyBot can print cell systems, experimental tissue models and microenvironments, organ models, microfluidic platforms and implant systems. Other players in the market include Oganovo, Aspect Biosystems, Cyfuse Biomedical and DigiLab. TeVido Biodevices uses 3D printing for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries that can include nipple reconstruction for breast cancer survivors and autologous cell therapy for vitiligo patients. South Korean company CGBio recently receive approval to bioprint cheekbones, according to 3DPrint.com.

Kamen has no background in medicine or healthcare, but does have a successful history as an engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He is best known as the inventor of the Segway, and his company DEKA holds patents for an all-terrain wheelchair, an insulin pump and a portable dialysis machine. Kamen has enlisted the help of the NIST to create standards that would ultimately pave the way for FDA approval when they are ready. ARMI has already informed the Department of Defense that it will have production capabilities within five years. First will come skin, bone and cartilage then later advancements will include hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys, he said.

Gov. Chris Sununu said at reception for the institute in early-April that Kamen’s work and the ARMI have the potential to make New Hampshire a hub for a new generation of medical and health care research. “People thought Dean Kamen was crazy when he went down to Washington and beat every other state and convinced the country that this is going to be the Silicon Valley of regenerative medicine,” Sununu said.

Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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