Futuristic Wow Tech! Growing Human Organs With 3D Printers

Mar 24, 2011
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We’ve looked at organ donation in the past, but since there are a shortage of organs compared to people on the waiting list, could we solve all of this and save all by growing human organs? At the recent TED conference, Dr. Anthony Atala demonstrated tissue regeneration technology – something he has been working on for the last 20 years. Dr. Atala is a surgeon, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the Chair and Professor of Urology. If there is a way to restore the human body after injury or disease, and to replace organs, then Atala and his team have most likely tried it. In 2008, Dr. Atala engineered an artificial heart valve that beats; then in 2009 he engineered a human bladder created from a scaffold sutured together to match a 3D image. In 2010, he and his team grew lungs that can breathe after being transplanted into rats; then by using human cells, they grew part of a liver in a lab. At the 2010 TEDMED, Dr. Atala said, “Every thirty seconds a patient dies from diseases that could be treated with tissue replacement.”

But now, at a 2011 TED conference, Singularity Hub reported Dr. Atala said, “90% of the patients on the transplant list are actually waiting for a kidney. Patients are dying every day because we don’t have enough of those organs to go around.” Then he discussed how desktop ink-jet printers could have cells replace the ink and layer by layer, “print” a 3D object in 40 minutes such as a piece of bone that can then be implanted in human patients.

He describes how they reconstruct the entire volume of a kidney from CT scans of patients, something that is becoming increasingly popular when engineering replacements for the body, and this information is processed to create scans of single layers, much like the slices from an MRI. These scans become the instructions for how the layers of cells are to be printed to generate a patient-specific kidney. Dr. Atala then reveals that there happens to be a printer on the stage and is about halfway through the 7-hour task of printing the kidney prototype. To show the audience what a bioengineered kidney looks like, the finished product is brought out that has the appearance of a raw chicken breast, but then again, it is made out of real human cells.

Singularity Hub also reported that the real “WOW” moment came when Dr. Atala showed a short video about a boy who was born with spina bifida. By age 10, the child, Luke Massella, had been through over a dozen surgeries. Massella agreed to an experimental surgery to receive a regenerated bladder from his own cells. It was so successful, the boy later became a wrestler and has been able to live a “normal” life.

Image Credit: Singularity Hub

Author: Tessa

  • Fencer101

    To conclude do we or do we not have the technology to synthesize human organs?

  • Manohar

    it realy a mirale and tru one

  • Bivai

    how long before human lungs wil start clinical triles