Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
Bio-ink and 3D bio-printing are no longer science fiction fantasies! Organovo, Inc., the San Diego company at the helm of bio-ink bio-engineered tissues is a public company, listed on the NYSE!
Bio-ink consists of cells which are injected using an ink-jet printer, in a hydrogel matrix, according to algorithms that model real human tissue. So for example, the cells of such organs as arteries, or muscle, or skin, are injected into a hydrogel scaffold, precisely in the configuration in which they occur in real tissue, using ink-jet technology, and once injected “the magic begins” as the cells fuse together to form tissues (muscle, skin, arteries), according to their own genetic programs. Heart muscle tissue, for example, starts to “beat” a few days after printing, once the cells have fused into place, and they start to function as heart muscle. This sounds like science fiction…. only it is really happening in San Diego, at Organovo! (www.organovo.com).
In 2013, Organovo, Inc, filed at least three patent applications, two for the platform and devices for tissue engineering, and one for the tissue production process. These are respectively: US2013164330 – Platform for engineered implantable tissues and organs and methods of making same; EP2629975 – Devices, systems and methods for fabrication of tissues; and US 2013190201-Engineered tissues for in vitro research uses, arrays thereof, and methods of making the same.
There are many advantages to this promising technology. The first is the very real possibility of 3D printing organs on demand, using the recipient’s own cells, and thereby solving two pervasive problems: the shortage of organs for transplants, and transplant rejection. There are also advantages for drug testing, as human (bio-ink) bio-engineered tissue can be used far earlier in the process of drug development, thus reducing both the failure rate of potential drug targets and the costs of drug trials. Bioprinted bioengineered tissues are also far better tissues than those traditionally “grown” in a petri dish, as they are 3D printed according to real organelle specifications, with the vascularization cells that sustain them, which makes then implantable.
The future further suggests the possibility of 3D bio-printing complete organs, such as a heart, a liver or a kidney, with replicated functions and structure, perfect compatibility and sufficient speed for lifesaving and commercially viable practices, even though the end result may not look exactly like the original. To date, a complete bladder has been bio-printed as well as a very tiny miniature liver. There are also ongoing uses of human bio-engineered breast tissue, skin tissue and coronary tissue grafts.
Finally, in a world where hunger affects 800 million people, this technology is seen as a potentially life-saving solution, which, by the same unspoken token, could mean true salvation for both omnivores and vegetarians. Indeed, there appears no reason why you could not, in a completely different context, 3D print your filet mignon, tender chicken breasts and juicy lamb chops.
Imagine, steaks without the slightest possibility of a stray prion! Thanskgiving without the turkey holocaust! YES!.....
Below a link to a TEDMED 2011 presentation by Organovo, Inc, founder Gabor Forgacs.
TEDMED - GAbor Forbacs at TEDMEDhttps://youtu.be/u31RXdazMRo