by Byron Connolly

QLD scientists play role in 3D printed kidneys

May 23, 20142 mins
Healthcare Industry

A scientific research firm in Queensland is playing a major part in creating human tissue with 3D printers.

UniQuest has signed an agreement with US-based bio printing company, Organovo, which is planning to produce kidney tissues using a 3D printer.

Under the agreement, Organovo will optimise the cells created by Professor Melissa Little from UniQuest’s Institute of Molecular Bioscience to print kidney tissues using 3D bioprinting.

Last year, Professor Little and her team made a leap forward in stem cell technology by growing a tiny kidney in a laboratory dish. The breakthrough drew a lot of international interest.

Professor Little said 3D printing of fully functional mini-kidney tissue would enable better disease modelling and drug development.

“The mini-kidney tissue can be used to test the safety of new drugs,” Professor Little said. “The sad fact is that most drugs fail during testing in humans and a big reason for that is that they turn out to be toxic to kidneys.

“If we can test a drug for kidney toxicity before applying it to human trials, we’ll save a lot of time, effort and money.”

The ultimate goal of Professor Little’s research – which has been supported with a $1 million donation from the QLD government – is to produce artificial kidneys for humans.

“There’s more work to get to this point but when we do, it will save lives and cut the cost of treating the disease,” she said.

The healthcare sector has been experimenting with 3D printing to create medical implants, and printing with bio-compatible plastics that can be used inside the human body.

At a TEDTalk in 2010, Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, said the kidney was the first organ ever to be transplanted into a human way back in 1954.

During the talk, he said there’s been a major shortage of organs since last decade, and the number of patients waiting for a transplant has doubled.

He said that every 30 seconds, a patient dies from a disease that could be treated with tissue regeneration or replacement.

Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly

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