Organovo Holdings, a San Diego, CA-based manufacturer of 3-dimensional human tissues, recently announced a partnership with 3D-software company Autodesk Inc. to develop the first 3D design software for bioprinting. The new software will be used to control Organovo’s NovoGen MMX Bioprinter, which produces “living human tissues that are three-dimensional, architecturally correct, and made entirely of living human cells,” according to the firm.


Currently, Organovo’s tissues are used by selected research partners for biological research and drug testing, but the company believes its 3D bioprinting technology “also holds great promise for creating direct tissue therapies… The long-term goal is to create tissues intended for direct therapeutic use to augment or replace damaged or degenerating organs.” The development of bioprinted organs could be a godsend for the 114,300 people currently on the waiting list for organ transplants, 18 of whom die every day, according to company background materials.

The MMX is a hardware and software platform designed for biological research that is particularly used by pharmaceutical firms for drug discovery. Company background materials say that the MMX “takes primary or other human cells and shapes them into [functional] 3D tissue, with tremendous cellular viability and biology that is superior to even an animal model.” Organovo’s bioprinting process involves growing cells in a culture, then collecting and incubating them to form “bio-ink” that consists of “cells and the building blocks to form a functional organ system in vitro.” The bio-ink is loaded into a cartridge, which in turn is placed into the printer. The printer deposits the bio-ink according to the desired design programmed in the controlling software. Organovo says it has worked with several tissue types, including blood vessels, cardiac muscle, bone, lung, liver, and kidney.

Because organs are so complex, Organovo says it’s difficult to predict which might be the first engineered organ. In background materials, the company says, “Tissues such as blood vessel segments, nerve grafts, bone/cartilage pieces, and assist patches for a compromised heart or kidney are examples of what could be a first reduction-to-practice for the technology.”

Organovo says that its work with Autodesk will continue throughout 2013. While the details are proprietary, the company says it expects the relationship “to lead to advances in bioprinting, including both greater flexibility and throughput with our internal development, and the potential long-term ability for customers to design their own 3D tissues for production by Organovo.”

+ Organovo

Photos courtesy of Organovo Holdings Inc.