TMU pioneered to fill the body with 3D printed organs in Taiwan

Source: Office of Global Engagement

Published on 2022-06-21

TMU Innovation & Entrepreneurship Education Center (IEEC) recently held the inaugural Medical Humanistic Care Workshop 2022 in collaboration with Shuang Ho Hospital, themed “Applying medical 3D printing to restore the body integrity of organ donors”.

The use of 3D printing for the replication of organs enables donors’ bodies to be returned to a full body state after donation and acts as a reassuring measure for the donor and their relatives in the process of organ donation.

Influenced by traditional ideas, Taiwan’s organ donation rate has been much lower than most Western countries. According to the statistics from the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center, over 10,000 patients are on the waiting list for an organ transplant as of May 2022, among them less than 335 (3.2%) have already received an organ or tissue transplant. Data over the years shows that in total only close to 10% of those waiting for organ donation successfully received an organ transplant, while many patients with organ failure are still waiting desperately for a life-saving donation.

The organ recruitment team leader, Dr. Hui-Tzung Luh from the Neurosurgery Department of Shuang Ho Hospital said that currently most of those on the waiting list are in need of a new kidney. On average, there are about 8,000 patients in need of kidney transplantation each year, but only over 200 are ever successful in receiving an organ transplant. Most patients can only rely on dialysis and keep waiting for the right match. The use of dialysis machines not only is a heavy burden on health insurance finances, but also seriously affects the quality of life of patients who routinely have to use the machines.

Left: TMU’s 3D printing organ filling workshop.  Right: 3D printed kidney organs

Dr. Luh explained that after an organ is removed from the donor, the cavity in the body will be dented and deformed where it has been sutured, and this will affect the body’s appearance. With the use of 3D printing, the shape of the organ can be realistically restored, so that the appearance of the donor will not be greatly affected. Shuang Ho Hospital recently used such method on a brain-dead patient, whose body was sutured and filled with the 3D printed organs with thank-you message after the organ donation. This was a great comfort to the patient’s mother. The TMU team behind this 3D printing technology hopes that the adoption of such method helps address concerns of the individuals wishing to observe traditional ideas and gives the public more confidence in voluntary organ donation in the future.

The Director of IEEC at TMU, Professor Yu-Cheng Hsiao indicated that 3D printing can quickly customize and is now a commonly used tool. However, there are still challenges in the 3D printing of organs such as making the organs match close to the size of the donor’s body and considering how they will be disposed of during cremation. And for those considerations, corn flour was therefore used as the material for its organic properties suitable for printing of human organs.

Director Hsiao pointed out that the workshop not only taught students how to operate the medical 3D printer to make the organs, but more importantly, gave the students a thorough knowledge of the organ donation process. The workshop was set to teach medical students for the time being, but its long-term objectives are expected to be reaching out to anyone who wanted to know more about the organ donation process in the future. Director Hsiao hopes that the willingness of the Taiwanese public to voluntarily donate organs will increase when they are given the option of filling the body with 3D printed organs, hence improving the likelihood of those waiting for organ donation getting matched with the organs they need.

Director Yu-Cheng Hsiao from IEEC at TMU (left), and Dr. Hui-Tzung Luh from the Neurosurgery Department of Shuang Ho Hospital (right)

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