The futuristic idea of 3D printing human organs may not be so futuristic after all.

Anthony Atala, a urologist and the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is known for pioneering the field of bioprinting human tissues and organs in the lab. He previously led the first efforts to successfully implant a laboratory-grown organ (bladder) in a patient in 2006 and even 3D printed a kidney during a TED Talk in 2011.  

Atala will discuss his work and the future of regenerative medicine in the university-wide Covestro Lecture, hosted by the Macromolecules Innovation Institute (MII), on Feb. 25.

The Covestro Lecture series aims to look beyond traditional science and engineering boundaries in the development of advanced materials to impact society.

"Dr. Atala is a world-renowned expert in bioprinting and has become a spokesperson of sorts for the importance of the intersection of disciplines of medicine, tissue engineering, novel materials, and novel processing," said Christopher Williams, the interim director of MII and a professor of mechanical engineering.

Atala’s lecture is titled "Regenerative Medicine — Current Concepts and Changing Trends" and will take place on Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Street and Davis Performance Hall. The talk is free and open to the public.

"Dr. Atala and others in regenerative medicine are working on the sci-fi promise to 3-D print human organs and tissues," said Abby Whittington, director of the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) in Macromolecular Science and Engineering as well as a co-founder of the IGEP in Regenerative Medicine. "We still have a long way to go, but I think the work he does, and stuff that’s done here at Virginia Tech as well, are making this a reality."

"A core mission of MII is to explore the intersections of polymer science and engineering and how they can positively impact society," Williams said. "Dr. Atala’s work is a great example of that, and I hope it can spur some new initiatives between the Blacksburg and Roanoke campuses to further our existing work in synthesis, processing, and characterization of novel biomaterials in medicine and tissue engineering."