Royal Adelaide Hospital will be the first in Australia to use a 3D printer of human organs in what it claims will be a pioneering leap in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

The cutting edge biomedical printer will make pancreatic islets – tiny clusters of cells scattered throughout the pancreas – to be transplanted into sufferers of the disease.

Without this pioneering technology, developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Wollongong, islets are harvested from deceased organ donors before being purified, processed and transferred into those with the most severe cases of type 1 diabetes.

But the 3D Printer Islet Cell Transplantation (PICT) will create customised “organoids”, reducing the risk of rejection, eliminating the need for oral immunosuppression medication, and restoring the recipient’s ability to produce insulin.

Being at the forefront of research gives hope to those living with diabetes, according to Royal Adelaide Hospital Director of Kidney and Islet Transplantation Professor Toby Coates.

“The PICT Printer will allow us to make customised organs, mixing donor with recipient cells in a unique three-dimensional way to provide completely new composite ‘organoids’ for experimental transplantation,” Coates said.

For the South Australian Government, the high-tech machine will add to the hospital’s reputation for innovation.

“This 3D printer adds further weight to the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s reputation as the most technologically advanced hospital in the southern hemisphere and a leader in transplantation techniques,” South Australia’s Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said.

The printer is being created in South Australia by Motherson Innovations, an engineering firm better known as a manufacturer of car parts. The company’s departure from its automotive product line sees it enter a growth sector that the Medical Technology Association of Australia claims will be worth US$455 billion in 2018.

With pre-clinical trials due to begin within two years, the company plans to work with the team at RAH to get the 3D printer into hospitals in Australia and globally.

“We’ll work alongside the team here and as they develop and modify the design they have, we can get them out into the market both in Australia and around the world,” the Motherson Innovations South Asia Vice-President of Engineering, James Nicholson, said.

 

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