Organovo and Bioprinted Kidney Tissues

Here is a popular science article on the topic of bioprinting complex tissues, which at this stage is largely used to provide small living tissue structures for research and development. These represent a great improvement in cost and efficiency when compared with the other options of cell culture and animal studies. Nonetheless, this is but a stepping stone on the path to the greater goal of tissue engineered organs assembled to order via 3-D printing technologies:

Just like you would hope, something very cool was revealed at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston: the biomedical company Organovo showed off its technique for 3D printing human kidney tissue. Organovo has been working on printing functional human tissue since being incorporated in 2007, and first printed a cellular blood vessel in 2010. Since January 2014, it has offered bioprinted liver tissue for companies to use in drug trials and disease modeling, and it looks as though its bioprinted human kidney tissue will be used for the same tasks, starting sometime in the latter half of 2016. "The product that we intend to build from these initial results can be an excellent expansion for our core customers in toxicology, who regularly express to us an interest in having better solutions for the assessment of human kidney toxicity."

So far Organovo's 3D-printed liver tissue is used for preclinical drug trials because the tissue responds like a real life human liver would for 42 days. That's much longer than the single layers of cells previously used in tests, which wilt in a few days. There are mixed views on how far off printing functional organs for transplant is. Growing tissue is one thing, but growing an organ and integrating it into a living body is another. "Everybody's dream is the 3D-printed organ. Are we ever going to get there?" asked Gabor Forgacs, whose research forms the basis of Organovo's method. Forgacs argued that there was no reason functional organs couldn't be made eventually, but that printing replacement organs on demand was still decades away.



I'm really curious what WFIRM and Organovo have talked about, if anything.

Posted by: Slicer at April 2nd, 2015 5:03 PM

I find it hard to believe it will take more than 10 years to bioprint an organ such as a kidney. They have been working on it for a number of years (5-10 yrs? and with this supposed expotential technology, it seems like a no brainer. I had thought the main problem was vascular, but that was solved last year.

Posted by: Robert Church at April 2nd, 2015 5:22 PM

How was the vascular problem solved last year? Any links to articles?

Posted by: jim at April 2nd, 2015 8:53 PM

Robert Church:

It is possible that the scientists in question are just trying to sound conservative in their estimates. But organs are also extremely complicated so it may very well be a long time before we are able to make any that can be safely implanted. I am not aware of any breakthroughs where vascularization was achieved, but even if it's a solved problem, I'm sure there are still many others.

In my opinion, implantable bioprinted livers, kidneys, etc. are at least 20 years away, and that's optimistic. Maybe as distant as 50 or more years. I'd absolutely love to be proven wrong, though.

Posted by: InternetStranger at April 2nd, 2015 9:28 PM

Hello Jim,

Not sure how to link it here, but the name of one article is

"Bioprinting vascular networks for tissue-engineered organ" written by Katie Bayliss and Robert van Liss was involved with study.

To be honest, I don't recall where or when I first read about the vascular issue thoug it was last year, but I just looked on the browser for the above article.

Posted by: Robert Church at April 2nd, 2015 10:19 PM

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