3D Bioprinting company Organovo dreams of the day when you will be able to 3D print your own custom organs on demand, facilitating life-saving surgeries and eliminating the need for organ donors. For now, however, the company is making miniature 3D printed livers available for purchase. The goal of these tiny printed livers is to help pharmaceutical companies perform liver safety tests in an innovative way. Up until now, researchers relied on data from laboratory animals– which is not an accurate reflection of how medicines may react with a human liver, or single layers of liver cells (hepatocytes)– which can only stay alive for up to 48 hours– not allowing researchers to see if certain medications will be a danger in the long-term. However, the 3D printed cells developed by Organovo have a hexagonal, honeycomb structure, similar to the way liver cells are found in the human body and can stay alive for up to 42 days, allowing researchers to see if long-term exposure to certain medications can affect cells of the liver negatively. As a testament to how well the 3D printed liver cells function, Organovo researchers ran an experiment with a medication which originally received FDA approval, but was later recalled for causing liver damage. Neither laboratory rats not the hepatocytes showed any danger with the medication, but the 3D printed liver cells did.
(Source: Popular Science)