Without a doubt, the most exciting applications for 3D printing, reside within the medical field. Companies like San Diego-based Organovo (NYSE: ONVO) are making substantial progress within the area of 3D bioprinting, allowing for the custom fabrication of human tissue. Just last month, the company announced the commercial availability of their exVive3D human liver tissue. The primary objective of this new product is to provide tissue samples to pharmaceutical companies who can then use them for drug toxicity testing.
Organovo is not stopping their though. The company is at the forefront of the bioprinting space, and has plans to eventually begin printing human organ tissue which can be used for transplantation. At first they plan to transplant tissue onto failing organs such as the liver, with their ultimate goal being the 3D printing of entire human organs for transplant surgery.
Today, these goals have taken a step forward, as Organovo has announced a collaboration with the Yale School of Medicine, Department of Surgery to develop bioprinted tissues for surgical transplantation research. This research will be made possible, thanks in part to a non-profit medical charity called The Methuselah Foundation, who has contributed important funding for this collaboration to Yale as well as other universities. The goal of this foundation is to find ways in which 90-year-old people can have the health profile of a 50-year-old person by the year 2030.
“Developing organs for surgical implantation will take meaningful efforts and focused partnerships. This collaboration with Yale, which combines their expertise and technology with our own, is one important step in progressing towards implantable, therapeutic tissues,” said Keith Murphy, chairman and CEO of Organovo. “We are grateful to the Methuselah Foundation for their generous gift that gives those working towards significant breakthroughs in organ bioprinting an opportunity to use the NovoGen bioprinter and enable greater access to Organovo’s powerful platform.”
Back in October, at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in Santa Clara, California, Murphy stated that his company would likely be printing partial livers for human implantation within just 4-6 years. This collaboration could play an integral part in their drive to meet this timeline.
“We are excited to begin this collaboration with Organovo and are honored to be part of Methuselah’s University 3D Bioprinter Program, which gives our key researchers access to cutting-edge 3D bioprinting technology,” said Dr. John Geibel, Vice Chairman, Director of Surgical Research, and Professor of Surgery and Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale University. “This collaboration is a great way to bring the best minds of both worlds to solve a major research and medical goal – using bioprinting to produce transplantable tissues.”
The work being done here could potentially lead to a drastic increase in the supply of human organs for transplantation. While most experts believe we are still 10+ years away from 3D printing entire organs for transplantation, research like this could indeed push that time frame a bit closer.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this collaboration in the Organovo & Yale 3D Bioprinting forum thread on 3DPB.com.