3D-printed kidneys take small steps toward organ replacement

A model of a 3D- printed kidney drew wild applause when a surgeon held up it at a TED conference in 2011. But the dream of creating replacement human kidneys using 3D-printed technology still remains years away, even as the technology has enabled the rise of “bioprinting” aimed at building organs suitable for transplantation.

Kidneys represent the human organ in highest demand among the more than 120,000 U.S. patients currently waiting for organ donations. Researchers hope that new generations of 3D printers can use living human cells to construct replacement organs layer especially organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys.

“These are undoubtedly the most complicated, because you might have a lot more cells per centimeter than any organ, and because you have a lot of cells that are functionally complicated,” said Tony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.


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