3D printing kidneys
Producing a functional 3D printed kidney may not yet be a reality, but there are a number of promising projects. In this article, we have elaborated on the technology in practice.
Today, we see a surging demand for organ transplantation worldwide. Despite continuing efforts to educate people on organ donation, the gap between organ needs and availability is widening.
For this reason, there's been a considerable increase in research on regenerative medicine, which can be defined as "a process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function" Regenerative medicine is said to be advancing thanks to new manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing. Bioprinting, in a few words, is the utilization of layer-by-layer fabrication techniques to combine cells and biomaterials to produce organic-like parts that function. As one can imagine, it's not a simple process since human tissues are extremely complex both in structure and composition. The development of biomaterials, along with micro 3D printing, is proving to be a huge challenge.
PROBLEMS: The kidney is by far the most needed organ for transplant. There are many technical challenges holding back the progress of 3D printing kidneys. Probably the biggest impediment is that, currently, no technology is capable of mimicking the architectural complexity of this organ. Other obstacles include the lack of controlled cell distribution systems and high-resolution cell deposition for vascularization and innervation.
SOLUTIONS: The 3D printing method most known for bioprinting is the extrusion of liquid material, here known as bioink. Stereolithography could represent a more suitable technique, due to its high-detail capability for printing intricate shapes, however, this fabrication process can be harmful to living tissue, and potentially cytotoxic.
Surprisingly, inkjet printers are commonly used as biological printers, mainly because of their low cost and wide availability. These systems, however, often suffer from mechanical issues and constant nozzle clogging, making them unreliable for large-scale bioprinting applications.
While it seems that bioprinting kidneys is still very much in its infancy, there has been a significant increase in the development and considerable progress made utilizing this technology. Source_techcrunch.com