The first 3D printed organ -- a liver -- is expected in 2014
Printed tissue could vastly improve drug testing
Computerworld - Approximately 18 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant. But that may change someday sooner than you think -- thanks to 3D printing.
Advances in the 3D printing of human tissue have moved fast enough that San Diego-based bio-printing company Organovo now expects to unveil the world's first printed organ -- a human liver -- next year.
Like other forms of 3D printing, 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.
Living cells may literally die before the tissue gets 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.
A micron is one-millionth of a meter. To better understand the scale Renard is describing, think of it this way: A sheet of printer paper is 100 microns thick. So the tissue Organovo has printed is the thickness of five sheets of paper stacked on top of each other.
Printing hepatocytes -- the cells that make up most liver tissue -- isn't enough, however. There are multiple types of cells with different functions in tissue that must be combined to create a living human organ.
Organovo's researchers were able to bring together fibroblasts and endothelial cells, which perform the function of developing tiny vascular networks, allowing the company to achieve thick tissue with good cell viability, Renard said.
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 as yet not released any information on possible future implantable organs. Any such initiative would have to undergo rigorous government review before being approved for clinical purposes.
Still, the creation of a viable liver is a watershed moment for the bio-printing industry and medicine because it proves 3D printed tissue can be kept alive long enough to test the effects of drugs on it or implant it in a human body where it can further develop.
"It is too early to speculate on the breadth of applications that tissue engineering will ultimately deliver or on the efficacy that will be achieved," Renard said.
That question, Renard said, can only be answered through continued successful tissue development and the completion of clinical trials, followed by a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- a process that can take three to 10 years.
To spur on the development of bio-printed organs, the Methuselah Foundation, a Springfield, Va.-based not-for-profit that supports regenerative medicine research, this month announced a $1 million prize for the first organization to print a fully functioning liver.
- Ready for your electronic tattoo?
- Research on bendable glass could lead to flexible mobile phones
- Smart highways and driverless cars coming in 2030 -- for real?
- Google phone project could transform smartphones
- Swarm of bat-like flying robots could hunt for survivors or terrorists
- Scalpel. Check. Robot. Check. NASA bots, one day, may operate in space
- Gov't developing smart suits to protect U.S. troops from bio attacks
- California fights drought with big data, cloud computing
- Robots closer to being able to work together as a team
- Why wearable computing is waiting for A.I.
- Top 12 Laptop Bags for Mobile Pros
- Think Deleted Text Messages Are Gone Forever? Think Again
- 7 New Faces of the C-suite
- 5 Ways CIOs Can Rationalize Application Portfolios
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Four Myths of High-Productivity App Dev Debunked Debunk the main myths surrounding high-productivity application development and how both platforms have overcome them.
- Shifting Gears: The Value of Customer-Driven Quality in Manufacturing In today's competitive manufacturing market, the customer must be the center of the quality universe. This paper details how manufacturers can improve customer...
- Aberdeen Group: Marketing Analytics for Manufacturing: Forging Customer Insights There are no recalls for poor marketing. Manufacturers need to get their customer intelligence and messaging right the first time. Learn how.
- Unlocking the Promise of Demand Sensing and Shaping through Big Data Analytics Many organizations have limited insight into big data. These limitations have significant opportunity costs and can have a negative effect on identifying and...
- Leveraging the Cloud for Dev/Test This video discusses some of the key considerations that IT organizations should take into account when moving test and development projects to the...
- A Secure Cloud for Development and Testing Environments This video shows the benefits of hosting your development and testing environments in the Enterprise Cloud Services - Virtual Private Cloud. All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts
As emerging technologies evolve they often find an initial niche in highly specialized scenarios, or in specific industry verticals, before expanding to wider areas of applicability. Within these initial niches, the early adopters can be anything from digital enthusiasts to fashionistas, or they can be folks simply using the technology because it serves a specific need extremely well. (free registration required) more