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3D printer uses living cells to produce a human kidney

An estimated 110,460 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant and each day 18 people die waiting for transplants, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But early-stage research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine offers the potential to significantly reduce this organ donor shortage.

Researchers at the institute have developed a technique and equipment for printing transplantable organs. The seven-hour process begins with collecting 3-D images of the organ that needs to be replaced. Next, a small tissue sample is taken from the patient and used to seed a specially-designed printer. The printer then replicates the tissue layer by layer to create a new organ.

In the just-posted video above, institute director Anthony Atala, MD, explains the organ-printing process in detail and shows the audience a completed model.

Although the printed kidney structures are early prototypes and years away from clinical use, the research is an exciting look at the possibilities of regenerative medicine.

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