3D Printing Human Kidneys (not our latest material launch)

Posted by in Inspiration, What's Hot

This video has been doing the rounds of the blogosphere over the past few days but for anyone who has missed it so far it is worth checking out.  Surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrates an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. If you are impatient skip to around 7:00 to see a nice desktop inkjet printer hack used to implant bone into a patient, and then goes on to show a kidney being printed a kidney-shaped mold being printed on stage and explained how one day – many years from now – the technology might be used to print actual organs. (update thanks to Glen Slingsby)

Anthony Atala is the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where his work focuses on growing and regenerating tissues and organs. His team engineered the first lab-grown organ to be implanted into a human, a bladder,and is developing experimental fabrication technology that can “print” human tissue on demand.

The printing of organs was also discussed in the Economist issue that focused on the 3D printing industry and a Time Magazine article from November 2010 featured Invetech and Organovo, a couple of the companies leading the way in Bio-3D-Printing.

I guess now we have to ask the usual question, what would YOU 3D print if/when Shapeways starts bio-printing?


  1. Paul King

    That pink gloop you just ate wasn’t a strawberry mousse… it was the bio-printer feedstock for my new kidney!

    Seriously though, this kind of bio-printing is a big leap forward in organ replacement and may benefit many, many people worldwide.

  2. Glenn Slingsby

    Sorry, but that is NOT a human kidney being printed on stage. We are YEARS away from that yet. I contacted the hospital where Dr Atala works and here is their official reply to this story:

    “Reports in the media that Dr. Anthony Atala printed a real kidney at the TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., are completely inaccurate. At the conference, Dr. Atala used a new type of technology to print a kidney-shaped mold and explained how one day – many years from now – the technology might be used to print actual organs.

    At the conference, Atala was reunited with a former patient who received a laboratory-engineered bladder 10 years ago. News reports are incorrectly saying that he received a printed kidney.

    Reports that bioprinting will eliminate the need for organ donation are also false. While this technology shows promise, it will be many years before it could be applied to patients.”

    I love the Internet, but once one incorrect story gets “out there” it is impossible to take back.


    1. Paul King

      Just gotta look at the guy’s published papers to realise he still trying to get the building blocks of a kidney structure laid out… cellular and molecular 3d printing is still a few hardware generations away (and the rate things are progressing that could be as little as 10-15 years imo)

      Never believe what you read ;)

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