3-D-Printed Kidney Parts Just Got Closer to Reality

kidneyUsing 3-D printing, scientists have created tiny, intricate tubes that work like key components of real kidneys.

Many more steps are needed before they can make artificial kidney replacement parts, but the result is important because it means that for the first time researchers have used 3-D printing to make kidney tissue that functions like the real thing. The inventors say that in the near term the artificial tissue could be used outside the body to assist in people who have lost renal function, and for testing the toxicity of new drugs.

Researchers have been trying to create artificial kidneys for more than 20 years, but re-creating a kidney’s complex three-dimensional structure and cellular architecture, which are crucial to its function, is extremely challenging. Still, the need is urgent. Roughly 10 percent of the world’spopulation suffers from chronic kidney disease. To stay alive, millions depend on dialysis, a time-consuming and physically demanding procedure in which blood is removed, run through a filtering device, and returned to the body. But dialysis machines aren’t nearly as effective as kidneys. And while roughly 16,000 people receive kidney transplants each year in the U.S., another 100,000 are waiting for donations.

By Mike Orcutt | MIT Technology Review

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