Printing A Kidney: A Glimpse At The Future:
Dr. Atala and his team are leading the way in the burgeoning field of bioprinting, which is exactly what it sounds like -- using printers (and sometimes the actual printer cartridges you'd use in your home or office machine) to print cells and biocompatible materials. Other major players in the field, like Organovo, have printed things including blood vessels, WIRED reports.
So the field exists, yes, and the technology is improving. But the kidney-shaped mold that Atala showed at TED was exactly that -- a mold, without the vessels or internal structures of an actual, working kidney. The hope, Wake Forest says, is that one day, the same printer from the talk will be used to print actual tissues and organs, but that day is "many years from now."
Another Atala-team advance that has gotten a lot of attention, but again, still looms on the horizon is using bioprinting to create new skin directly on wounds or, Marketplace reports, burn victims. In his speech at the TED conference, Atala said that he and his team are actively designing a printer prototype that would do exactly that.