More than 80,000 people are in the National Organ Transplantation Waiting List in the United States, awaiting organ donors in their struggle to live.
"Eighteen of these patients die every day, so we are in dire need for replacement tissues and organs for them," said Shiv Gaglani, a junior at Harvard College of the Harvard University.
Since donors are hard to find, advances in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine could one day help by making organs. One such development is 'printing' the organ. Gaglani invented such a 'printing' technique, beginning research in tissue engineering while he was still in high school. Using an ordinary inkjet printer, he 'printed' the first 3D branching blood vessel, he said.
"This basic science research hopefully can be built upon and advanced to one day create fully functional tissues and organs," he told rediff India Abroad.
His invention, 'A novel rapid prototyping approach to tissue engineering,' has won him many awards, the latest being an induction into the National Museum of Education's Gallery for America's Young Inventors.
Shiv, founding president of the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association, is one of the five 'young geniuses' selected for induction later this month at the NMOE's 13th annual ceremony in Akron, Ohio. Dr Ronald Mallett, a renowned physicist, speaker, professor, inventor and author of Time Traveler, will be the keynote speaker.
The National Gallery is a museum of young American inventors 'whose ideas hold promise to a positive impact on our society,' according to the NMOE. Its hopes to preserve and promote great inventions produced by America's youth and usually inducts six young people in grades K-12 annually.
To qualify, students should have made the invention during the school years and must not complete 19 years of age at the time of induction, Gay Evans, assistant executive director of NMOE, said.
The NMOE's high school peers select the inductees.
For the selection, the NMOE has constituted a National Board of Student Directors, which is 'is overseen by an adult board of advisors made up of outstanding business men and women as well as accomplished inventors,' according to the NMOE. This is the only nationally recognised hall of fame for student inventors, established in 1993 and okayed by the adult National Inventors Hall of Fame Board in Washington, DC.
Among the members of the student board is Sujay Tyle of Pittsford Mendon High School in Pittsford, New York. He is working on a patent for technology that he has developed at the University of Rochester, to produce biological ethanol as alternative energy.
For his organ 'printing' work, Shiv worked with South Carolina researchers to modify an ordinary, desktop inkjet printer so it could print living cells mixed with other chemicals.
Son of Dr Mukesh Gaglani and Vanita Gaglani, Shiv, 19, is majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in economics and serves as chief executive officer of the International Journal of Young Investigators.
Windhoek, Namibia-born Shiv's family lived in South Africa for five years before moving to Florida in 1995, where they have lived since.
Gaglani said he discovered and developed his passion for science and medicine in elementary school and by middle school decided to pursue a career in medical research. In high school, he completed six research projects in stem cells, neuroscience, behavioral science, and plant biotechnology, besides tissue engineering. His research won him a second prize at the International Science and Engineering Fair three years in a row. His articles were published in professional academic journals. He was selected on the 2006 All-USA High School Academic First Team, was a Presidential scholar and Siemens Westinghouse Science Competition regional finalist, and National May 2004 Teen of the Month. He said he is continuing his research, and looks forward to his future projects. He likes reading, scuba diving, playing football and tennis, and flying.
How did he get interested in tissue engineering?
As a science and technology enthusiast, he subscribed to science-oriented magazines, including Popular Science and Scientific American.
"I read an article titled "Print me a Pancreas, Please" in the May 2003 issue of Popular Science, which described novel tissue engineering research involving modification of off-the-shelf inkjet printers to print out living cells," Shiv said.
He used that, some of his own ideas, and relied on help from researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Clemson University to make computer-aided designs to help in making organs. After many efforts, the principal investigator at CU relented and let him do research there. He learned laboratory techniques, conducted research, and independently succeeded in 'printing' the first functional 3D branching tube of smooth muscle cells.
"I consider it a turning point in my life. It has increased my passion for research and my determination to be a physician and innovate devices or pharmaceuticals to improve people's quality of life," he said.
"I was ecstatic when I heard that my work was selected for the great honour of induction into the National Gallery for America's Young Inventors. 'Though I was only 15 at the time, I had the same passion I have today for medical research. It is great that enthusiasm is recognised."
Selection board member Tyle's research on ethanol for alternative energy won him the Best Young Scientist in New York honour and the second place in the Energy and Transportation division at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He was recently appointed to the 100-member Obama Battleground Healthcare Advisory Team. He is the only high school student on the board and he was sponsored by Nina Vasan, a Harvard medical student and an Obama campaign adviser.
Tyle said he had run a business in custom product delivery, sits on the National Environmental Education Foundation Board and was named an eco-hero and an eco-ambassador by Action for Nature and the Weather Channel respectively. He likes playing tennis, is nationally ranked in table tennis, and performs in oratory competitions nationwide.