UConn Students Print Functional Kidney Prototype
Kyle Maxey posted on May 16, 2014 |
Six UConn students develop, prototype and 3D print artificial kidneys in an exploration of how AM ca...

3d printing, student, medicineStudents at the University of Connecticut have developed a 3D printed artificial kidney prototype that can theoretically filter out toxins and save lives.

Guided by Anson Ma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UConn, the six students were split into two 3-person teams and asked to create an artificial kidney using 3D printing technology.

Lent a year to study, prototype and build a working model the two teams took different paths to arrive at their goal. One team opted to build a kidney based on hollow fiber membrane technology which imitates proven hemodialysis techniques that filter urea, creatinine and other unwanted material from blood.

Oblong in shape and equipped with five tubes that circulate blood throughout the system, the team’s design proved to be a model that could work if its materials were biocompatible.

With a reported 100,000 people awaiting kidney transplants in the US alone, developments like the UConn artificial kidney could one day bring much needed relief to those suffering from renal disease.

Though the packaging and shape of the artificial kidney have been printed, Benjamin Coscia, a member of the UConn team noted, “Because 3D printing resolutions are not currently low enough to print a structure which will actually filter blood, the file is of only the shell of the kidney.”

Given that reality, Coscia said his team’s kidney design would be rendered fully functional with off the shelf parts, “Hollow fiber membranes will be installed on the inside to do the filtration function. The kidney will then be sealed together using the threads and sealing o-rings. A fluid called dialysate will be circulated on the outside of the membranes, inside of the shell, which will cause flux of components from the blood. A waste stream maintains the person’s ability to urinate. The outside of the shell can be used as a substrate for growth of biological material for ease of integration into the body.”

Although 3D printing technology currently has a number of limitations, designers and engineers still look at AM systems as a valuable tool in their product development process. With the improvement of print resolutions and materials the sky will be the limit for 3D printing and digital manufacturing.

Image Courtesy of UCONN

Recommended For You