Kidney tissues to come from 3D printers via Qld-US deal

IT SOUNDS like something out of science fiction but a US company is planning to produce kidney tissues using a 3D printer. And there's a Queensland connection.

Minister for Science and Innovation Ian Walker said mini-kidney tissue would be printed by America's 3D bio-printing company Organovo following an agreement signed with the University of Queensland's commercialisation company UniQuest.

It delivers on the government's election promise to provide better front-line services to Queenslanders, especially in health.

"Professor Melissa Little and her team made a huge leap forward in stem cell technology last year by growing a tiny kidney in a laboratory dish."

"One in three Australians are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease so what Professor Little accomplished last year was a hugely important development," Mr Walker said.

He said the breakthrough drew enormous international interest, including from the San Diego-based Organovo, because of the continuous research progress shown in Professor Little's labs.

"The agreement with Organovo, the world leader's in 3D printing of human tissue, will optimise the cells created using Professor Little's technology in order to print kidney tissues from them using 3D bioprinting."

Mr Walker said the Queensland Government provided $1 million to support Dr Little's research and that now the state was seeing a great outcome.

Prof Little, from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at UQ, 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," Prof Little said.

"The sad fact is that most new 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 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."

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