ARPA-H Moonshot Project Aims To Enable 3D Printing Of Human Organs

The field of therapeutic cloning has long sought to provide a way to create replacement organs and tissues from a patient’s own cells, with the most recent boost coming from the US Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) and a large federal contract awarded to Stanford University.

Patients on the organ donation waiting list in the US (Source: HRSA)
The waiting list for organ donors in the US. Source: HRSA

The Health Enabling Advancements through regenerative tissue printing (HEART) grant, which has the creative name of “Health Enabling Advancements through regenerative Tissue-Printing”, will provide a $26.3 million US grant to build a bioprinter that is backed by bioreactors. Each bioreactor will cultivate a specific type of cell, which will then be ‘printed’ in its proper place to gradually build up the target organ or tissue. The project’s five year goal is the printing of a fully functioning human heart and implanting it into a pig.

If the procedure is successful, it can be further refined to allow testing on human patients and bioprinting not only of hearts but also of lungs, kidneys, and many other organs. The Stanford University’s lead researcher, [Mark Skylar-Scott]It is unlikely that the technology will be used on human patients for decades. The lifesaving potential is immense once this technology has matured. Data from the US HRSA shows that there will be over 42,000 transplants by 2022. There are currently over 100,000 patients on the waiting list and 17 people die every day until an organ is available.

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