The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry.” That quote comes from Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), a Harvard professor of medicine and former Editor-in-Chief of The New England Medical Journal. (source) There are also many examples displaying the fraud and deceit that run rampant within our federal health regulatory agencies. Why am I starting this article with this information? Because there is also a flip side. With modern day technology and many medical advancements taking place, the human race actually has tremendous amounts of potential. But in today’s world, advancements that threaten corporate profits never really see the light of day. For example, if there really was a cure for cancer, but it could not be patented, that would mean that billions of dollars would be lost by big pharma as cancer treatment would be rendered obsolete. It should already be suspicious that chemotherapy and radiation treatment are the only two recommendations that an oncologist can make, despite the fact that so many other treatments are showing tremendous amounts of potential as well. One of the more recent and astonishing medical discoveries is an engineered heart that completely matches the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of a patient. This is a major medical breakthrough, and it comes from researchers at Tel Aviv University.
They were able to “print” the world’s first 3D vascularized engineered heart using the patients own cells and biological materials.
Their findings were published a couple of weeks ago in Advanced Science. Never before has a full organ been printed with complete success and been able to be put to use. In regenerative medicine, scientists have only been successful in printing simple tissues without blood vessels. “This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” says Prof. Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, who led the research for the study. (source) This has tremendous potential, and just imagine if this type of technology was made available to everybody with heart disease! It’s the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, and heart transplantation is one of the only solutions available. This type of technology could literally provide a new heart without the risks and difficulties associated with a full heart transplant. Given the money-hungry world we live in, some solutions to problems never see the light of day, even if they prove to be viable. It would be great if the same amount of effort was put into preventative solutions. When it comes to heart disease, for example, a plant-based diet seems to be extremely effective, you can read more about that here. But instead of this, we are looking to find solutions to our problems instead of actually addressing the unhealthy lifestyles that cause these problems in the first place. I thought that was important to mention. “This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process these materials serve as the bioinks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models,” Prof. Dvir says. “People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels. Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.” (source) There is still a lot of progress to be made, but again, this is a huge step in the right direction. As Prof Dvir states, “The use of ‘native’ patient-specific materials is crucial to successfully engineering tissues and organs.” “The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments,” Prof. Dvir says. “Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient’s own tissues. Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.” (source) The printed heart still needs to be developed further, and they still need to figure out how to make them “behave” like a heart, but perhaps in a decade or even less there will be organ printers in hospitals around the world. Imagine.
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