The TED (Technology, Education, Design) conferences are globally recognised as being a ground breaking forum for sharing revolutionary ideas. Yesterday, Anthony Atala Director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine printed a functioning kidney on stage at the current TED conference being held in California. Atala explained the process whereby scanners build a 3-D image of the kidney, then a tissue sample smaller than a postage stamp was used to seed the process. The organ printer then built the kidney layer-by-layer, creating an almost perfect replica of the patient’s tissue. This machine effectively eliminates the need for organ donors, and Luke Massella is living proof of the value of this organ printer. Massella received a printed kidney during experimental research a decade ago, he was 10 years old at the time. “Now, I’m in college and basically trying to live life like a normal kid,” said Massella, who was reunited with Atala at TED. “This surgery saved my life and made me who I am today.” The need for kidney transplants far outweighs the supply. “There is a major health crisis today in terms of the shortage of organs,” Atala said. “Medicine has done a much better job of making us live longer, and as we age our organs don’t last.”
Atala’s team at the Wake Forest Institute has also developed techniques to grow muscles, blood vessels and bladders, amongst others.
Although this video is not yet available on the TED website, they have published one of Atala’s previous presentations in which he discusses the Wake Forest Institute’s previous advances in this cutting-edge field of medicine.
Media Reports on Kidney Printing Inaccurate
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.
This technology has the ability to print cells and biocompatible materials at the same time. The hope is that one day it will be used to print tissues and organs. This demonstration, in which a kidney-shaped mold is printed, shows how the technology works:
- Cells and biomaterials are inserted in the printer cartridges.
- A CT scan from a patient would be used to create a “map” to guide the printer.
- The printer “prints” biocompatible materials that form the kidney shape.
- While this mold has the shape of a kidney, it is not functional because it has none of the vessels or internal structures.