Need a Kidney? Print One Up

You're not going to believe this.  They're making guns from 3-D printing, and now they're making live kidneys.

I had to read the headline twice myself.

But medicaldesigntechnology.com reports that "Researchers at a university in eastern Zhejiang Province have used a 3-D printer to create living kidneys, which are expected to be used for transplants in the future."

Scientists in China worked to create a miniature of an actual kidney, according to fastcoexist.com.   "The organ can carry out the same functions as human kidneys, like breaking down toxins, and researchers hope that (with, admittedly, many more years of research) they'll one day be a suitable replacement for human kidneys for patients in need of a transplant," the Web site recounts.

"It's different from traditional 3-D printing," lead researcher Xu Mingen explained in a video posted to YouTube by the English-language news site China View, fastcoexist.com notes. "If we print a cup, we have to fill up the object with our material," Mingen said. "But such methods don't work in cells because a cell contains blood vessels and has tissue space. We have to spare enough space for them to grow."

According to the video, the printer can print living cells. The cells are created in a substance called hydrogel, a "water-rich" substance, rich in nutrition." Before printing, the cells are cultured and then blended with hydrogel.  Ninety percent of the printed cells are alive, and they can live up to four months, according to Xu Mingen.

Believe it or not, the printed kidney has been shown to function exactly the way a human organ does, breaking down toxins, metabolizing and secreting urine.  While this is incredible news for those awaiting organ transplants, testing still has a long way to go.  But the future of creating human organs has begun, and all we can do is sit back and wait.

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