Organovo Expects First 3D-Printed Liver Tissue in 2014

(ComputerWorld)  Advances in the 3D printing of human tissue have moved fast enough that bio-printing company Organovo now expects to unveil the world’s first printed organ — human liver tissue — next year. The liver tissue model that Organovo plans to release next year is for research use only and will be used in the laboratory for medical studies and drug research. That’s important in its own right: Developing a new drug costs, on average, $1.2 billion and takes 12 years. Organovo has not yet released any information on possible future implantable organs. Any such initiative would have to undergo rigorous government review before being approved for clinical purposes.

Bio-printing lays down layer after layer of material — in this case, live cells — to form a solid physical entity — in this case, human tissue. The major stumbling block in creating tissue continues to be manufacturing the vascular system needed to provide it with life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients. Until this latest breakthrough, living bioprinted cells died before the tissue was off the printer table. Organovo, however, said it has overcome that vascular issue to a degree. “We have achieved thicknesses of greater than 500 microns, and have maintained liver tissue in a fully functional state with native phenotypic behavior for at least 40 days,” said Mike Renard, Organovo’s executive vice president of commercial operations.