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3-D Printed Tiny Livers Are Created To Test Drugs


3-D printed tiny livers created from three different human liver cells
Organovo Inc. Photo

3-D Printed Tiny Livers Can Save Lives and Stop Testing On Animals

Organovo, a San Diego based bio tech company, has just made an extreme leap in the advancement of medicine. This company is making 3-D printed tiny livers for drug companies to test their products on.
When a medication enters the bloodstream, it ends up concentrated, in the liver. This means that if a drug is going to have an extreme and dangerous effect on any part of the body, it will most likely be the liver. It would stand to reason, pharmaceutical companies would want a way to test the safety of their products. Therefore, Organovo decided to make miniature human livers to experiment on.

Ever since 3-D printers have hit the scene, researchers and scientists have been examining how 3-D printers can be used to simulate human tissue for research purposes.

The 3-D tiny livers are bio printed with a specially designed 3-D printer. The livers are composed mainly of three kinds of human liver cells. These livers will allow drug companies to test out new drugs on liver tissue, before they test them on humans. This tissue will function similarly to a real liver and has the ability to live for a minimum of 40 days. “Pharma companies can use our bioprinted liver tissue to weed out toxic drugs early in drug development rather than after they have failed expensive clinical trials,” stated Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo.

Michael Renard, Organovo’s executive vice president of commercial operations, said the tissue are developed by getting the cells from regulated cadavers. The cells are then processed into bio ink and form a mock liver to be tested on. These cells need to be printed in a specific pattern to mimic the structure of a human liver. The printed material takes 3 days to mature and develop, before it can be used for testing. These livers contain hepatocytes, stellate, and endothelial cells, which are the same cells in the human liver. They also produce liver proteins such as albumin, fibrinogen, and transferrin. These tiny livers also synthesize cholesterol. With such a huge step for the medical community, it is exciting to see what is next. This could be a huge leap for everyone, not just the medical community. If we are able to produce human livers, what is stopping us from printing other organs, like lungs or an organ similar to the brain. If these can be developed, we can get away from abusively testing products on animals and test them on materials that are form from actual human cells, providing a more realistic result.

The first livers sold will be under contract with Organovo and will involve a research services program. That means that the tests administered on these livers will be performed by Organovo technicians, under the company’s facilities and will a watchful eye on what is being tested. Also, this will help to record any difficulties in the testing process. This development will ensure using newer prescription drugs will be safer for everyone.

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