A fair number of companies are at work on various approaches to bioprinting larger tissue structures, stepping stones on the way to the construction of patient-matched organs to order. New organs on demand is clearly the goal on the horizon, but many hard problems have to be solved before that can be accomplished for even relatively less complex internal organs. At the moment, while functional tissues for several organ types can be produced from cells in the lab, in the form of tiny organoid structures, there is no reliable methodology for the production of blood vessel and capillary networks needed to supply large tissue sections. Printing structures of the same complexity as the natural extracellular matrix of decellularized donor organs is also a work somewhere in progress. Nonetheless, a great deal of funding is devoted to these and other challenges; progress is likely over the decade to come.
Last month I had the chance to hold a replica of the upper part of a human airway – the windpipe plus the first two bronchi. It had been made from collagen, the biological cement that holds our bodies together. It was slippery and hollow, with the
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