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Organovo: Not Your Typical Printing

March 19, 2012

There is a startup company in San Diego, California that is making a breakthrough in regenerative medicine with its product the NovoGen MMX Bioprinter.  Utilizing both hardware and software and live human cells, it can regenerate different types of human tissues. This has vast implications in human medicine and life itself.

Using different kinds of tissue cells Organovo can regenerate a cell to create a new tissue similar to the tissue where it came from. The cell is first grown in a culture until there are enough cells. Then these are transferred to another medium where an incubation process takes place and the cells begin to attach to one another and solid tissue formation begins to take place.

The now forming tissue is drawn into a glass tube. This is like having an ink cartridge where the ink is the growing tissue. Using a script which is computer programmed, the printer drops the tissue to the required shape. The tissue is deposited one line at a time onto a layer of gel. Then another layer is made using the same procedure.

After a period of days the cell tissues will grow together in one piece and is literally identical to the one taken from a human body. The company has at present made lung tissue, cardiac muscle tissue and blood vessels tissue.

The current application is for use by pharmaceutical companies. Drug tests are traditionally performed on animals like mice. When human trials are done the drugs at times do not perform or have some side effects since the lab animals are not really humans. This can cost the drug companies millions or billions of dollars if the drugs have to be shelved.

Testing the new drugs on these tissues  can save a huge amount of money as the drug companies can readily see which drugs can work on human tissue or not and do not have to go forward with tests  that takes time and are costly.

The future goal is to ultimately create human organs. As the cells can come from the patient, organ rejection may be less likely to occur. There are of course moral and scientific controversies surrounding this form of science. For those in need of organs though it is a sign of hope and a possible cure.

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