Origami Organs: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?

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CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A special organic paper that helps repair and rebuild tissue, muscle, and organs? After a small accidental spill in the research lab, scientists developed a biologic product that may someday soon help doctors heal patients. It could be medicine’s next big thing …

Muscles torn during battle, open wounds, or damaged organs … These could all be healed with the help of paper-thin material. Northwestern University researcher Adam Jakus was working on 3D printable ink for organs, when it spilled. He went to clean up and the biomaterial peeled off in a thin sheet.

“I knew I was onto something here, and I realized we could do this with all tissues and organs,” Adam Jakus, PhD, Chief Technology Officer at Dimension Inx explained to Ivanhoe.

Using leftover parts from a local butcher’s shop, Jakus and Professor Ramille Shah began testing a special mixture. They removed the animal cells from specific organs, like livers and hearts, dehydrated the organs to form powder, then used liquid to cast into sheets which they call “tissue paper”.

Ramille Shah, PhD, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Surgery-Organ Transplantation, Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology at Northwestern University stated, “And over time, the ultimate goal is to have that material completely replaced by natural tissue.” (Read Full Interview)

For example, a cardiac surgeon using the cardiac tissue paper would cut a patch to fit the damaged area, so it needed to be doctor-friendly.

Jakus continued, “They have to like the way it feels and it has to kind of fit in with their general routine of surgical procedures.”

Think origami for organs. Origami is the traditional Japanese art form of folding paper. The researchers’ goal was to make the paper easy for doctors to apply.

“And in most cases a surgeon won’t form an origami bird and implant that, but the ability to show that we can create something as complex as an origami bird means that we can definitely create the folds necessary for a surgeon to implement it surgically,” Jakus said.

Cutting-edge medicine that may give surgeons maximum flexibility.

The researchers say they are about three to five years away from developing tissue papers that could be used in humans for muscle repair and regeneration. Paper for use in organs, like ovaries, would be closer to a decade away, but the timeline primarily depends on funding.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field and Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS

RESEARCH SUMMARY

TOPIC:            ORIGAMI ORGANS: MEDICINE’S NEXT BIG THING?

REPORT:       MB #4380

3D PRINTING: Three-dimensional printing is the process of making a solid 3D object from a digital file. It is achieved using additive processes. This is when an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each one of these layers can be seen as a separate, thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the entire object. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing; this is the process of hollowing out or cutting out a piece of plastic or metal with, for example, a milling machine. Three-D printing enables you to produce complex and sometimes functional shapes using less material than traditional methods of manufacturing.

(Source: https://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/)

MUSCLES AND INJURY: Muscle heals very differently than bone. If you fracture a bone, it will heal thoroughly as long as it is set and fixed in place properly. It may even become stronger than it was before the injury. Muscles, however, do not actually heal with muscle tissue but with foreign substances including collagen. The resulting scar tissue is weaker, less elastic, and prone to re-injury and once a muscle is damaged it can become the source of a great deal of pain. Sprains and strains are a cause of impairment and pain, but are often also poorly diagnosed and inadequately managed. The standard medical response to muscular injuries is mostly pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and rest. Medication does little more than numb the pain signals and suppress inflammation, and these are symptoms being treated instead of the injury itself.

(Source: https://bodyinbalance.com/856/muscular-injury-pain-muscle-healing/)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Now a thin, flexible paper could be used to promote healing not only muscles and open wounds, but even damaged organs. Using parts from a local butcher’s shop, researchers began testing a special mixture; they removed the animal cells from specific organs, like livers and hearts, dehydrated and ground up the resulting non-cell-containing organs to form powders, which were used to make liquid inks; they were then cast into organ-specific sheets, which they called “Tissue Papers”. Researchers are hoping one day these papers can help surgeons and doctors heal patients. For example, a cardiac surgeon using the cardiac tissue paper would cut a patch to fit the damaged area, so it needs to be doctor-friendly. The goal is to make the tissue papers easy to make and easy to manipulate so that a doctor or surgeon could easily apply them when needed. They are about 3-5 years away from developing tissue papers that could be used in humans for soft tissue repair and regeneration. Tissue papers to be used for repairing and healing damaged organs, like livers or ovaries, would be closer to a decade away, but the timeline primarily depends on funding.

(Source: Adam Jakus, PhD)

MORE INFORMATION: The researchers have formed a spin-off company to continue the commercial development of the paper, called Dimension INX.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Kristin Samuelson

Kristin.samuelson@northwestern.edu

Adam E Jakus

adamjakus@dimensioninx.com

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Ramille Shah, PhD

Read the entire Q&A