Scientists have developed a way to produce a 3D Printed kidney that "can function as a human organ." While others have used advanced 3D Printing techniques to replicate a kidney in the past, the tissues were unable to function. Now the team in China have successfully printed a series of living kidneys that can carry out the same functions as a real human kidney.
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This is a huge step forward in what has now become a race to find best alternatives to fill the growing need for Kidney Transplants to extend the lives of people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The printed 3D kidneys were made with a "bio-ink" (embryonic stem cell used to manufacture human organs via a 3-D Printer) that perfectly replicated kidney tissue. This new breakthrough is very important to the Kidney Community because it "prints" viable kidneys with the use of current technologies.
However, there are still challenges to overcome before this new advancement will create kidneys that are fit for transplant. For instance, though the kidneys are living they have no blood vessels or nerves, and consist of cells that can only live for up to four months which is hardly a realistic solution for ESRD patients. Thus the expected time frame of producing a living organ for transplant could still be around 10 to 15 years away.
Nonetheless, researchers behind the project hope their printed kidneys can help millions of people whose survival depends on organ transplants. Check out the video below to learn more about how far we've come with 3D printed organs, as well as how far we still have to go.
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