When most people think about engineering they probably don’t realize how important it could be to their own health. Over the past 50 years, engineering has made immense progress in the healthcare world. If you told somebody 50 years ago that they could someday be operated on by a robot, they would have thought you were crazy. The da Vinci robotic surgery was introduced in 1999 and first used in 2000. Patients can now have surgery performed with minimal incisions which lead to less pain, quicker recovery, and better outcomes. A surgery that may have had you stuck in the hospital for many days now can be performed by robotics and have you out of the hospital and back to regular activities much quicker. It is amazing how engineering has created a tool that has helped so many patients have less complicated surgery.
It is hard to imagine how many different ways engineering will change the future of healthcare in the next 50 years, but I think one of the greatest changes will be the 3D printing of organs.
Every day an average of 18 people die waiting for an organ donation. There are over 120,000 people that are in need of lifesaving organ transplants. For some people even once they get a transplant, their body might reject the new organ because their body detects that it is foreign and their immune system attacks the new organ.
Engineers have already figured out how to begin the process of printing organs. They have printed an ear and think that within one year they will have a 3D printed liver. Engineers will be able to take patient’s tissues, isolate the cells, and then put them into the printer. Once you press the button, your new organ will begin to print. Because you are using the patient’s own tissue and cells, their immune system will not reject the organ.
Some engineers believe that within ten years’ time, they will even be able to print a bioficial human heart. Because heart disease is the number one killer in The United States, so many patients would benefit from having a 3D bioficial heart transplant.
This technology is so important because there are so many people in need of a new organ transplant. With 3D printing, people who are in need of lifesaving organ transplants would be able to get them faster, easier, and cheaper than a traditional transplant. Plus, they would not have to stress worrying about their body rejecting the organ.
I cannot wait to see the results of what 3D printers will be able to do for the healthcare world. I think that they are going to help make a lifesaving difference for so many people who are in need of organs. I bet it will be only a matter of time before we see a lot of new progress in the 3D printing of organs.