Artificial Organs

Today in my Bioengineering class we learned about artificial organs. This is very interesting and also difficult area. As we learned, most artificial organs are devices outside the body that are used to replace organs that no longer function properly. There are artificial hearts that are placed within the chest to replace a heart that doesn’t pump blood efficiently enough. However, these devices are only temporary, they work for a few years at most and are usually used to help patients waiting on a transplant list so that they live long enough for a transplant to become available. The bladder is the only organ that can be made using the patient’s own cells. The body won’t reject the implanted organ because it is made from the patient’s own cells. Other artificial organs are much more complicated. Diabetic patients now have the option of using an insulin pump which injects insulin in response to changes in sugar levels in the blood to keep these levels constant. For decades there has been research on implanting islet cells, the cells in the pancreas that normally secrete insulin, into diabetic patients so that they would be able to produce their own insulin, but none of these techniques have proved useful in the long term. The immune system responds to the foreign cells, forming a capsule around them that prevents the insulin from getting into the blood. It can be very difficult to design a device that can replicate a healthy organ while still remaining compatible with the human body and not deteriorating over time.

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