Surgeon Dr Pankaj Chandak works in a pioneering field of medicine – 3D printing for paediatric surgery. This is a technique which allows surgeons to use models of organs to visualise how they could fit into recipients’ bodies, and is especially effective in complex paediatric cases.

In his talk, Dr Chandak began by giving a brief history of transplantation – from the Middle Ages and the first modern heart transplant, to current scientific discoveries. This helped to give audience members such as myself some background in the field.

Transplantation is difficult, and part of Dr Chandak’s talk was focused on the problems faced in transplantation, such as the unequal donor-recipient ratio. Surgery is also high risk, and the safety of living donors – such as those donating a kidney – must be carefully evaluated.

Much of Dr Chandak’s recent work has seen him transplanting adult organs into babies and children, as children’s organs are not usually viable for transplantation. This is where the 3D printing technique has come into its own, as surgeons can practise deciphering how an adult organ will best fit within a child’s body cavity, before the surgery takes place.

Another speciality Dr Chandak works in is harvesting damaged and discarded organs from deceased donors, and making them viable for transplanting into living recipients. This technique could help to reduce the vast recipient waiting lists, revolutionising transplantation surgery in the future.

To carry out this technique, Dr Chandak and his colleagues use EVNP (Ex-vivo Normothermic Perfusion) to improve the quality of deceased-donor organs. Essentially, the organs are hooked up to a machine which circulates blood through them so they can function efficiently. During the talk he showed video clips from his lab, and it was astonishing being able to see the difference between the organs before and after the perfusion had taken place.
Dr Chandak concluded his talk by saying ‘human contact is the reason we do what we do’. I felt excited and inspired by his talk.

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