The Use of Bio-Printing in Developing Treatments for Coronary Heart Disease

With increasing obesity, diet issues and smoking, heart problems are extremely common in the current population of this planet. Mostly prevalent in the elderly, heart diseases are the number one cause of death in the United States of America. According to the Heart Foundation, from the heart diseases, “coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing 380,000 annually”. In this day and age, we can use the technological advances we have made and the resources we have, to provide effective treatment for heart diseases.

One of these promising developing technologies is Bio-Printing. Although still in its cradle, Bio-Printing has faced many difficulties which might hinder its development such as ethical and feasibility issues. These issues can be dealt with effective regulation and governmental actions. Acknowledging the obstacles faced by Bio-Printing, I believe it can still be used to develop a better treatment for coronary heart disease.

Bio-Printing is a term used for using stem cells to 3D print cells, tissues and organs.

3D Printing “uses computer-created digital models to create real-world objects” (Griggs) using different inks for different materials. Using any 3D computer model, we can use specialized printing machines to print an identical 3D object. On the other hand, stem cells are unspecialized cells which can turn into tissue and assume special functions. Using stem cells as the ink, we can use 3D printers to print tissues, bones and organs as per requirement. Getting to the specifics of things, the “3D printing process follows the same basic steps” regardless of the ink used.

(Matulka) She goes on to explain how creating a digital blueprint is the first step. After a blueprint has been made, the user hits print and depending on the type of printer, material used, and model to be printed, the printer starts depositing the ink trying to give a 3D shape to the blueprint. After the printing has completed, the print created “requires a bit of post-processing”. (Matulka). Although, Bio-Printing is a slow process, it is still developing and in the future we will be able to use this technology to mass produce tissues and organs at the demand of the public. Moving onwards, coronary heart disease is the most prominent of heart diseases. I am going to refer to it as CHD at some points in the paper. It’s a case where the coronary artery gets blocked due to cholesterol buildup which limits blood supply to the heart muscle. This leads to the heart muscles to stop working as it does not get the required nutrients and this leads to death if not dealt with in time.

Moving to the crux of the message, Bio Printing has been used in the past to deal with certain heart conditions. After thorough research I could not find any treatment lead by Bio-Printing for coronary heart disease. Although there is no recorded data or proven information on this, there are ways which can be developed to find a treatment for coronary heart disease. Usually a stent is used to open up the blocked artery to treat CHD. I believe, instead of using stents to unblock clogged coronary arteries, we can print multiple coronary arteries and attach them to the heart so the heart muscle can receive a constant blood supply with nutrients on multiple locations. So even with a blocked coronary artery, the heart muscle will still receive ample amount of oxygenated and nutrient-filled blood. All it requires is an incision in the main coronary artery to attach the printed artery. Then the printed artery can be attached to any specific part of the heart muscle. A printed vessel can also be used to make a detour round the blocked section of a coronary artery. Instead of the stent treatment, this would truly revolutionize the heart muscle performance and the blood flow to it. Why would this idea be better? To insert a stent, the surgeon has to insert a catheter into a particular vessel to pass the stent through it. This might cause infection, damaged to the vessel and also irregular heartbeats according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. An article published in the New York Times suggests that stents are not as effective as they may seem and range between “$30,000 and $50,000” for the procedure. (Bakalar) Studies mentioned in the article suggest that stents momentarily clean up the blocked vessel but a patient with a stent has similar outcomes as one on medication.  The author mentions stent treatment as P.C.I. in the article. “Death rates were 8.9 percent with P.C.I. and 9.1 percent with medical treatment. Rates for nonfatal heart attacks were 8.9 percent for those who got stents and 8.1 percent for those on medicine alone.” (Bakalar) This shows that treating the patient with stents momentarily cure the problem. Instead treating CHD with a Bio-Printed would not only be a better cure but also a long lasting one. This idea, granting a bit far-fetched, can revolutionize the treatment provided for CHD. It might seem “too easy to do” but with the technology at hand, it might well be an easy fix.

As said before, the idea presented by this research paper is slightly questionable due to the technology being in its infancy. But although still in development, Bio-Printing has been used and has given encouraging results. As a report by CNN shows, a girl born without a trachea was given a windpipe made by using her own stem cells. (Griggs) Also, it was used to replace “the entire top of a woman’s skull”. (Williams) Not only that, but we have seen a case where Bio-Printing was used to treat a heart condition. A news report published in the Daily Mail, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, told the readers of a case of two-year old Mina Khan, who suffered from a hole in heart. Surgeons used an MRI and other scans to create a 3D model of the patient’s heart. Due to this, “surgeons were able to design a bespoke patch and understand how it needed to be stitched into place.” (Gayle) This technology has been making great advances, moving from printing a film of cells to printing a bone. Gradually, this technology will develop enough that surgeons will be able to print organs rather quickly and it will be more feasible. But at this moment, considering the technology we have at hand, printing arteries should not be a big deal. In an Oxford Journal, Beyersford in his essay explains how 3D printing can give the field of medicine a lot. Sharing the same idea, he also hopes that one day “there would no longer be any organ shortage and patients with terminal heart failure would get their new hearts from their own cells without the need for postoperative medications”. (Beyersford) Not only that, but in the same essay he reveals how 3D printed organs can not only serve as an organ, but can also be used to plan out procedures: “these models reveal important information preoperatively”. (Beyersford) Although still being developed, it is visible how big Bio-Printing can be for the field of medicine. By the looks of it, the technology has a lot to offer not only in finding a cure for CHD, but also in all aspects of medicine.

Almost every technological innovation known to man has faced obstacles in its path to success. But the hindrances Bio-Printing faces are a bit more serious. Naturally, with something new being developed there are questions raised to not only regulate it but also improve it. But being able to produce organs, vessels and body parts has raised questions of the human race playing God or rather “creating”. Similarly in the past, organ transplant, robotics, gene therapy and other technological advances have been seen as ethically wrong by a large number of people. Nowadays these technologies are being used on a regular basis to help human kind. On the other hand, Bio-Printing is a combination of two slightly controversial technologies: stem cells and 3D Printing. Since stem cells and their uniqueness were discovered, it has been targeted by many people regarding its research process. Stem cells, on its own, are notorious for igniting furious debates between scholars regarding its ethical concern. 3D printing is also seen as unethical due to the fact that a robot is able to print an organ or rather “create” at man’s will. Tying both of these together, Bio-Printing does have twice the amount of ethical concerns. But using strict regulatory practices and governmental actions, the ethical concerns of this revolutionary technology can be eliminated. Bio-Printers are relatively expensive to purchase, which is an advantage for the technology. This means not everyone can buy a Bio-Printer and its inks and use it to their leisure. The government can create a committee or a governing body responsible for the regulation of this technology. The committee should be responsible for tracking Bio-Printers and make them available only for select research facilities and hospitals. Google launched its newest gadget, “the Google Glass” and has been regulating it in a similar way. For an individual to purchase this expensive device, they have to submit an application which states their need for it. That application goes under extensive and exhaustive review after which Google decides if the applicant really needs the gadget or not. So using the same ideology, yet making it impossible for individuals to buy, Bio-Printers can be regulated to eliminate concerns. Another thing that the committee can due, is having a tracking number on every Bio-Printer sold and perform a checkup every 2 months on the printer. By making Bio-Printers available only to medical facilities, the government would then remove the risk of having an individual use it to their advantage. There is a lot that can be done to regulate this technology, which will eliminate the ethical concerns entirely. In the end, it all comes down to how significant one thinks the value of life is and how important it is to save it, which “trumps all objections”. (Griggs) Organovo’s, the leading Bio-Printing company, CEO Keith Murphy “said. ‘We don’t think there’s any controversy if you’re producing good data and helping people with health conditions.’” (Griggs) Naturally, if there is a way one can save a live without harming anything, there is no reason to stop them.

As previously mentioned, Bio-Printing has obstacles to pass before it can prosper completely. Apart from ethical concerns, there are also feasibility issues that come into play with this technology. Life is way too valuable, and with the developing technology Bio-Printed organs and vessels (in this case) would soon become feasible. Going off of the idea mentioned above of making the Bio-Printer expensive, the government can reduce the prices of the inks to an ultimate low which would make it feasible. For medical facilities, having Bio-Printer would be an initial huge amount and then small amounts for the inks. This would make it make the technology feasible and eliminate all ethical concerns. But then again, looking at how science and technology are blowing minds, and extending boundaries, soon enough there will be ways by which inks used for Bio-Printing will be easily produced. So, the ideas mentioned in the previous paragraph and in this paragraph can be used to help Bio-Printing overcome its concerns. Once these issues are put to rest, Bio-Printing will revolutionize the world of medicine.

In conclusion, although still in development Bio-Printing (using stem cells to 3D print) has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to finding a better way to cure CHD. Considering the factors and the explanations mentioned in the research paper, using 3D printed vessels to provide blood to the heart muscles seems like a fascinating solution. Looking at how it can save countless lives and effectively cure CHD, Bio-Printing seems to have the tools to develop a much more feasible and effective treatment for CHD then what we already have. Using the ideas and solutions mentioned in this research paper, the government can help this technology in its addressing concerns. Soon, after overcoming all the ethical, feasibility and development issues, Bio-Printing will revolutionize the field of medicine and find a better cure for coronary heart disease in particular.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Griggs, Brandon. “The next Frontier in 3-D Printing: Human Organs –” CNN. Cable News Network, 05 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

In this article, Brandon Griggs, who works for CNN, explains how 3D printing can change lives in the coming years. He discusses how 3D printers work and what Bio-Printing means. Moving onwards he describes how over the years, scientists have been working in labs to print strips of organ tissues and have been developing this technology. He then describes how there is a race going on between multiple companies striving to receive a one million dollar prize to print a full functioning liver. Griggs tells us how one of the companies, named Organovo, has been working on its project and how far they have come along. Towards the end of his article, the author talks about ethical concerns of this technology and how this will create moral conundrums. He ends his article by saying that this technology “trumps all objections” as it saves lives. The article is strong because not only does it list out the advantages of this developing technology, but also the concerns it might give birth to. Also, this article gives the readers credible information with examples and quotes from scientists and a CEO of Organovo. This article is suitable for my research paper because it discusses what Bio-Printing is and how it can be used to mimic the functions of the heart.

  • Crawford, Mark. “Creating Valve Tissue Using 3-D Bioprinting.” Creating Valve Tissue Using 3D Bioprinting. The American Society for Mechanical Engineers, 01 May 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

In this article, by Mark Crawford, the readers are explained a serious health condition affecting people of all ages, and also a way to treat this condition. This article uses a research study done by scientists in Cornell University and summarizes it, in other words. The author first describes the Aortic valve disease and then goes on to clarify bioprinting. Crawford goes into the details of this process by making clear how 3d printers can be used to print a whole heart using “biological material”. The biomaterial mentioned in the study this article is based on is alginate, a low cost material that can be used effectively to print valves. Moving forward, the author predicts how the future is bright for this technology. This article’s strength is demonstrated by the fact that it summarizes a credible study. On the other hand, the author is an independent writer who puts the credibility of this article at stake. All in all, this article is suitable for my research paper because it is specific to the bioprinting of the human heart and its valves.

  • Gilpin, Lyndsey, and Jason Hiner. “New 3D Bioprinter to Reproduce Human Organs, Change the Face of Healthcare: The inside Story.” TechRepublic. TechRepublic, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

TechRepublic’s Lyndsey Gilpin and Jason Hiner write about the complexity and the details of the 3D printing system. They take upon a case at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute which they use effectively as it serves their purpose. The authors talk about a 3d printing machine that is used by the institute which is slow and does not give desirable results. Then it talks about how a faster and more efficient machine, which the institute is going to receive, and how it can make ground breaking discoveries and can accelerate research in this technology. Towards the end, the article talks about how complex bioprinting is and how many hurdles it has to cross. This article talks about bioprinting and the challenges it faces. It takes a case and using it as an example, it effectively goes through the bioassembly and the step by step process of bioprinting. This article is extremely important and suitable for my research paper as it describes the limitations of my proposal.

  • Gayle, Damien. “Two-year-old Girl’s Now Living a Normal Life after Pioneering Surgeons Use 3D Printer to Make Copy of Her Heart .” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

This news article published by United Kingdom’s Daily Mail talks about a recent surgery in which the surgeons used a 3D printed heart. Two year old Mina Khan was born with a large complex hole in her heart. The news article describes the toddlers’ situation and how the hole was too big for the doctors to treat. But with the use of 3D printing, the surgeons designed a patch and stitched it in place of the hole. The article has no weakness because it is reporting an event that happened quite recently. But with quotes from the mother and the surgeons, the article shows its strength. This is important for my research paper because it shows that this is a stepping stone and 3D printing can be used in the future to gradually save more lives.

  • Williams, Richard. “Netherlands Researchers Advance the 3D Printing of Body Parts by Using Stem Cells.” 3DPrintcom. N.p., 29 May 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Richard Williams publishes an article concerning the development of stem cell research and 3D printing in the Netherlands. He argues that at first, researches only focused on creating heart tissue. Williams explains what stem cells are and their uniqueness, and then goes on to say that now the researchers are focusing on many different types of tissues. He talks about how stem cells were used in the replacement of the entire top skull of the woman with a 3D printed implant. He predicts that using stem cells, researchers will be able to create not only soft tissues but also bone and cartilage. The weakness displayed by this article is that it is only directed towards the Netherlands, but it gives an example of how stem cells and 3D printing have been used in combination. But nonetheless, the article is important to my research paper as it gives an example and also helps explore uses of the combination of stem cells and 3D printing.

  • Beyersdorf, Friedhelm. “Three-dimensional Bioprinting: New Horizon for Cardiac Surgery.” Oxford Journals. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.
  • Bakalar, Nicholas. “No Extra Benefits Are Seen in Stents for Coronary Artery Disease.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
  • Matulka, Rebecca. “How 3D Printers Work.”, 19 June 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
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