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Organs made with a printer

Dr. Anthony Atala speaking at TED conference in Long Beach, Calif.

LONG BEACH, CA -- Anthony Atala printed a real kidney when speaking on the stage at TED in Long Beach, Calif. Thursday.

Since 2006, the surgeon from the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine has been performing transplants not using human organs, but organs grown in his lab and now experimenting with the next level of possibility - creating organs using a 3-D printer."

"It's like baking a cake," said Atala.

Well, it's not that simple.

Atala attempted to explain the process as follows: scanners take a 3D image of a kidney that needs to be replaced and a tissue sample the size of half a postage stamp is then used to begin the computerized process. The 3D organ printer then works layer-by-layer to build the replacement kidney using the patient's own tissue.

"There is a major health crisis today in terms of the shortage of organs," Atala told TED attendees. "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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