Did you know that in seven hours you could print a human kidney using 3D printing technology?
Well, you couldn’t.
But scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have been working on doing just that.
Anthony Atala, surgeon and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has spent his life growing and regenerating tissues and organs so that they can be implanted in the human body, allowing people who need organ transplants to thrive.
Atala and his team engineered the first lab-produced organ – a bladder – to be implanted in a human being. This “transplant” saved a ten-year-old boy’s life. Now, the team is focused on developing a printer that can literally print in cells, producing vital organs like kidneys, livers, and hearts. Since 90% of people on donor lists require new kidneys, being able to print these indispensable organs would be nothing short of revolutionary.
From printers that print right onto the patient, repairing broken tissue or wounds in a matter of hours, to printers that actually print whole organs, Atala and his team are at the forefront of tissue regeneration technology.
The printer that they use to print whole organs is actually a normal desktop inkjet printer that prints in much the same way as the printer in your office does – only, instead of printing in ink, it prints in cells.
Using 3D reconstructed images, the team is able to analyse a patient’s actual organ. After scanning that information into a computer, the surgeons are then able to design an organ for that particular patient, creating a kidney that is exactly like the one he or she needs replaced.
The kidneys that are being printed today are still very much in the prototype stage, and are not yet suitable for human implantation. This does not, however, diminish these surgeons’ advancements in research. One day, in the not-so-distant future, the science may have advanced to such an extent that it does away with organ transplant waiting lists altogether.
If you’re interested in watching Anthony Atala’s full TED Talk, you can watch it here: [https://www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_printing_a_human_kidney?language=en ]
Main Image Credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/kidney-disease_b_4896376.html