Surgeon Creates Kidney on Stage

A surgeon has “printed” a kidney using an experimental technique that could one day eliminate the need for donors when it comes to organ transplants.

“It’s like baking a cake,” Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine said as he cooked up a fresh kidney on stage at a TED Conference in the California city of Long Beach.

Scanners are used to take a 3-D image of a kidney that needs replacing, then a tissue sample about half the size of postage stamp is used to seed the computerized process, Atala explained.

The organ “printer” then works layer-by-layer to build a replacement kidney replicating the patient’s tissue.

“This is still experimental and in no way eliminates then need for organ donors,” said Wake Forest spokeswoman Karen Richardson.

“The hope is that one day this technology can be used to print organs, but we are not yet to that point.”

College student Luke Massella was among the first people to receive an organ – a bladder – engineered in a lab a decade ago when he was just 10 years old.

He said he was born with spina bifida and his bladder was not working.

“Now, I’m in college and basically trying to live life like a normal kid,” said Massella, who was reunited with Atala at TED.

“This surgery saved my life and made me who I am today.”

About 90 percent of people waiting for transplants are in need of kidneys, and the need far outweighs the supply of donated organs, according to Atala.

“There is a major health crisis today in terms of the shortage of organs,” Atala said. “Medicine has done a much better job of making us live longer, and as we age our organs don’t last.”

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