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Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson, Melba Kurman

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Chapter 7

Bioprinting in “living ink”

Anthony Atala, a researcher at Wake Forest University, caused a sensation when he appeared in a TED talk in 2011 and gave what many people mistook for a demonstration of how to print a living human kidney. Naturally, since 90 percent of the patients on the organ donation list are waiting for replacement kidneys, people got very excited. After the ensuing confusion was sorted out, it turned out that 3D printing live kidneys was still in the early research phase. The “kidney printing” was actually a lab experiment involving the 3D printing of kidney-like tissue that was capable of filtering blood and diluting urine.

Atala’s TED demonstration had the effect of raising peoples’ awareness of the possibilities inherent in 3D printing body parts. Atala, long an evangelist of regenerative medicine and one of the pioneering researchers of bioprinting, remains optimistic. In an interview with a newsletter from a major financial firm, Atala said that “there is no question that someday, perhaps in the span of a generation, you can have a heart made out of your own cell tissue. Isn't that amazing?”1

The printer of youth

William Shakespeare called old age a “hideous winter.” Many cultures tell stories of a mythical Fountain of Youth which gives people the gift of eternal youth. A medieval novel described the Fountain’s therapeutic power to turn old warriors into young ones.

The old warriors; more than forty-six bathed in it and when they came out they were ...

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