Obah Isaac Ebuka
Editor’s Note: It is extremely important that supporters of transhumanism understand the opinions of peoples from every nation. I, Kimberly Forsythe, decided to reach out to people from other cultures and asked them to give me their opinions on the topic of transhumanist tech. My goal is to better understand why some may object to the idea based on various cultural differences.
As I receive the essays, I will publish them. My hope is that we can work together to build more international bridges and achieve progress that works for as many people as possible. This essay regarding the promises of 3D-printing of organs and the remaining challenges of implementing this technology was written by Obah Isaac Ebuka.
~ Kimberly Forsythe, Member, United States Transhumanist Party, December 13, 2020
3D-Printing Organs for Transplant
What if it was possible to mass-produce organs – to grow hearts and lungs in a lab, readily accessible by the hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for organs? The affirmative answer to that question has been the goal of many researchers over the years, and their results are very promising.
The Promise of 3D-Printing
In 1988, a researcher modified a basic HP inkjet printer into using cells instead of regular ink and used the printer to write on a surface using cytoscribing technology. Now in 2019, scientists in Israel have been able to print a miniature human heart complete with contracting blood vessels using human cells. A lot of work and technology through the years led up to this incredible feat of human bio-engineering.
3D-printing organs is still not completely perfected, but the technology at present shows that it is possible. Current biotechnology makes it possible to print incredibly complex organ scaffold structures that mimic the structures of human organs and tissues with high anatomical precision using synthetic but biocompatible materials. These scaffolds can then be used as the spatial matrix on which cells can be built upon to create life-sized vascularized organs that possess the vital microstructures of real organs.
Current Challenges for Bioprinting
There are still many challenges to bioprinting that are yet to be addressed. One of these is that human organs are more incredibly complex than current technology can create. It might have been possible to create a miniature heart with the major aortae and coronary arteries, but scientists have yet to replicate vessel structures like the millions of capillary networks which are micrometers in diameter and essential to the life of organs.
Also, organs are much more than their structures and shapes. There a lot of details about organs that we are yet to understand such as how certain genes, hormones, and other factors in the body interact with organs and vice versa. An example of this is how the heart is an endocrine organ and not simply a blood pumper. So a true heart replacement also has to be able to create Atrial Natriuretic Peptides (ANP), which lower blood pressure.
Hindrances from a bioengineering perspective aren’t the only things to worry about. It is also very challenging to design clinical trials that will test the longevity and compatibility of these experimental organs in humans. There is also the challenge of securing sustainable sources of cells, biocompatible material, as well as large-scale manufacturing capabilities needed for 3D-printing to be a viable and affordable replacement for real organ transplants.
Ethnic and Religious beliefs
Ethnicity and religious belief inhibit technological changes. In Nigeria, a country in western Africa, some groups of religious fanatics believe that each organ is sacred and would not have their organs changed. This view is not only shared in Nigeria particularly, but it is commonplace and widespread for natives to abhor mending or replacing what they come to see as natural.
Proposed solutions to these barriers
Natives should be enlightened. They should be taught the need for bioprinting organs, seeing that the ultimate aim is to save lives.
Author: Obah Isaac Ebuka
Twitter handle: @AiTweet01