A breakthrough in vascular 3D printing has led bio-printing firm Organovo to predict printed livers will be available within the next year.
While the announcement has sparked even more interest in the burgeoning field of 3D bio-printing, Organovo has stated that its printed liver won’t be suitable for human transplant. Instead, the liver will be used as proof that the San Diego-based company has the chops to build a printer that can reliably produce human liver tissue.
If Organovo can meet its mark, the firm will begin selling 3D bio-printers to companies engaged in drug development – an expensive and research-intensive field.
Key to Organovo’s confidence is its recently refined printing process, which binds fibroblasts and endothelial cells together to create a network of blood vessels. With this breakthrough the company has been able to print organs that are 500 microns thick (thicker is better in 3D bio-printing), and in the coming year the company expects to grow the size and viability of their 3D printed organs.
While many see Organovo’s promise as a sign that 3D printed transplant organs are just around the corner, the company has sought to temper such predictions, stating: "We are developing a human liver tissue model for medical research and drug discovery testing. We have not provided any information on when engineered tissues might be used as future therapeutic solutions."
Although Organovo isn’t willing to speculate on the future of 3D printed organs, the development of experimental human tissues will be a major milestone in the history of both 3D printing and biomedical science.
Images and Video Courtesy of Organovo