News Feature | January 29, 2014

Organovo Synthesizes Human Liver Tissue With 3D Bioprinting

Source: Bioprocess Online

By Cyndi Root

Organovo Holdings, Inc. used 3D bioprinting to create three-dimensional human liver tissue. The company presented the results of the experiment at the 2013 Experimental Biology conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Keith Murphy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Organovo said, “With Organovo's 3D bioprinted liver tissues, we have demonstrated the power of bioprinting to create functional human tissue that replicates human biology better than what has come before.”

Organovo specializes in designing and creating human tissue that accurately replicates human biology. The company partners with pharmaceutical companies and university medical centers. It provides researchers with the opportunity to test drugs on human tissues before attempting clinical studies on animals or humans. Murphy said the successful liver tissue printing proves that a complete liver printing is possible. He said, “We believe these models will prove superior in their ability to provide predictive data for drug discovery and development, better than animal models or current cell models."

The Liver

Liver cells are widely used in research, as they are useful in testing drugs or identifying toxicities. In patients, structurally damaged livers or those ravaged by disease have a good chance at recovery, as the liver is capable of replicating itself. Outside of the body, liver tissue does not replicate as well and it loses many capabilities including metabolizing drugs, filtering blood, and producing proteins. Several genetic diseases owe their existence to poor liver function and its inability to produce specific proteins. Acquired diseases like hepatitis are dependent on liver deficits.

Printed Liver Tissue

The printed human liver tissue is three-dimensional, up to 500 microns in thickness, and the cells are architecturally designed to replicate native tissue. Organovo's proprietary NovoGen™ bioprinting platform allows for several features missing from 2D printing.

  • Tissues are 20 cell layers thick and not in a monolayer 
  • Multi-cellular tissues more closely replicate the cellular architecture in native cells
  • Tissues do not depend on biomaterials for structure 

The NovoGen Bioprinting system used human hepatocytes from stem/progenitor sources. Organovo proved that the synthesized liver was able to offer several key biological functions like cholesterol biosynthesis, fibrinogen and transferrin production, and albumin production.

Organovo recently announced in a press release that it is joining with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research studies. The company is already working with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Eye Institute (NEI).