Printing a human kidney

By Grant Jacobs 11/03/2011

FRIDAY VIDEO: Speaking at TED surgeon Anthony Atala presents early work on ‘printing’ a kidney and other regenerative medicine.

The basic idea is to use a 3-D printer working with living cells to create an organ, for example a kidney. (Do remember that most of the work talked about is about prototypes, looking to the future.)

His talk presents regenerative medicine, work trying to replace organs through bioengineering. Among other things he introduces a replacement heart valve under development and introduces a patient who received an engineered bladder ten years ago.

There’s new technology he presents that they aim to–his words from his talk–‘print right on the patient’ to treat surface wounds. Rather than use grafts, they hope to directly print the replacement tissue onto the patient.

My main quibble about his talk–one any scientist (or medic) would make–is a lack of data on how well these replacement organs work. Taken at face value, it’s certainly interesting use of technology, but personally I would have liked exploration of the limitations of the technology and the challenges too. I feel talks like this ideally ought to present both sides, as it were. Taking nothing away from what they are attempting to do, I have a fair amount of trouble visualising how well this might work for a complex organ like the kidney for example, as opposed to, say, a bladder.

Other lighter fare on Code for Life:

Thoughts towards a human brain neural connection map

Finding platypus venom

What the cat brought in

Beautiful peaceful images

Capturing bodies – medical imaging data