One of the major stops ahead for biomedical research is the three-dimensional printing of organs like the human liver, as well as kidneys and even the heart. This is an exciting time for scientists and researchers and those that are healthy now, but may have the need for an organ printed specifically for them as a transplant are living in a time when that might actually happen. One company is right on the cutting edge. Organovo is a start-up based out of San Diego, and they were the company in the spotlight last year as they successfully printed tissue from a human liver. Now, they are working on printing three dimension liver models that can be used for testing. The company plans to launch in 2014 for these livers for testing.
However, the technology isn’t quite as advanced as it sounds yet. Scientists are still a long way from growing organs like hearts and lungs. Organovo chairman and CEO said that the company goals right now are for tissue research and not for livers that will be implanted into humans. This is still quite a leap forward from what has been done in the past. Stuart Williams called this a “near-term application” in an interview with NBC News. He is the scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute which has done work with Organovo before. “We’re getting very good at printing out the parts for the aircraft carrier, but not the whole carrier yet,” Williams said. “So for a near-term application, what this allows us to do is print out the cells that are in the liver and use those to test out the safety of certain drugs, for instance.”
Organovo’s achievement isn’t because of new technology. This has been around for a while. In fact, researchers have been using 3D printers to create organ tissues since the 1990’s. However, what Organovo has done better than anyone else is to create a set of instructions that result in superior 3D printed tissue.