One of PopSci’s favorite regenerative medicine specialists, Anthony Atala, printed a real kidney on stage at the 2011 TED conference Thursday, in a technique that could be used to create new organs from a patient’s own tissue rather than relying on donated organs.
“It’s like baking a cake,” Atala said.
A few years ago, Atala figured out how to produce human tissue with a desktop inkjet printer, using cells as the printer ink. In a TED talk last year, he described printing heart valves and other tissues. This week at TED, he brought one of his patients on stage. When he was 10, Luke Massella was among the first people to receive a printed kidney — now he’s a healthy college student.
The process employs scanners that collect a 3-D image of the organ that needs to be replaced. A small tissue sample, which AFP describes as the size of a postage stamp, seeds the printer, which replicates the tissue layer by layer to build a new organ, all in about six hours. It uses the patient’s own tissue, so it avoids any organ rejection issues.
When people ask us “what the future of open source hardware” – we think this is a neat preview, it’s a bit of OSHW 3D printers, thingiverse for people, genes and organs with a dash of Instructables. And depending on how health care goes, KickStarter.
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