3D printing technology – projected to be a $3 billion business by 2016 – is rapidly evolving, particularly in the medical sphere. To be sure, Melbourne scientists recently took a big step towards the development of “grow your own” 3D cartilage to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injuries, as 3D printed orthopedic implants were successfully fitted in Peking’s University Third Hospital in Beijing.
Similarly, doctors at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan transplanted 3D printed bones into four patients with cervical spine (cervical) disc herniation, while 3D printing tech helped Doctors at the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University repair a patient’s damaged skull in China.
And now, for the first time ever, scientists have successfully used 3D printing technology to create actual, living human kidneys.
“Like the human livers printed in the past, the kidney are currently miniature in size, but with about 90% of the printed cells being alive, the potential for human use looks immensely positive,” explained Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg. “To produce mass amounts of the living cells, samples of human kidney cells are cultured in large volumes and blended with hydrogel, a water- and nutrition-rich material that makes up the 3D printed kidneys’ base.”
According to Xu Mingen, the lead researcher and professor at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in eastern Zhejiang Province, the 3D printed kidneys are capable of breaking down toxins, metabolizing and secreting fluid.
As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has used Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing recently entered a new and exciting stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena, science lab and even on the battlefield. Indeed, as Bloomberg’s Betty Liu notes, the 3D printing industry is projected to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.