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Using Bioprinting Technology, San Diego’s Organovo Makes 3D Tissue

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cell cultures “don’t usually last more than 48 hours.” In contrast, he said Organovo’s tissue culture continued to function until the experiment ended at five and a half days. To hear Murphy tell the story, cell biologists who study whether new drug candidates might have toxic effects on the liver would be thrilled to get cell cultures that survive longer than two days.

Murphy explains that creating a 3D matrix of cells enables each cell to interact with adjoining cells, so they react to drug compounds much as they would in the body. The company also has been exploring other potential uses for bioprinting, such as working with the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, OR, to create “constructs” of diseased or dysfunctional human cells that could be used to help scientists better understand cancer disease mechanisms and metastatic progression.

Organovo was founded in 2007 to commercialize technology developed by Gabor Forgacs, a professor of biological physics at the University of Missouri who showed in 2005 that it was possible to “print” a tube of living tissue, forming simple blood vessels.

The company’s latest advance followed scientific research published in 2010 by a team of scientists at the University of Missouri that showed cells have an innate regenerative capability to self-assemble and self-organize. While MIT’s Robert Langer and others pioneered methods for encouraging certain types of organ cells to grow on polymer scaffolding, the Missouri team suggested bioprinting might make it easier for cells to sort and fuse themselves.

In 2011, Murphy identified pre-clinical drug testing as a potential new market for Organovo’s bioprinting technology. As he explained at the time, producing a sample of human tissue that can live outside the body makes it possible for pharma scientists to test the toxicity of an experimental drug in ways that model the reactions of a living organism.

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