Tissue engineers continue to forge ahead towards the use of smaller functional sections of tissue as a way to treat failing and damaged organs. The path to the construction of entire replacement organs will be an incremental one. Organovo recently announced their intent to turn their work on bioprinted liver tissue into an option for transplantation:
Organovo today announced its plan to develop 3D bioprinted human liver tissue for direct transplantation to patients. The company is announcing its program to develop this therapeutic tissue based on the achievement of strong results in preclinical studies in animal models showing engraftment, vascularization and sustained functionality of its bioprinted liver tissue, including stable detection of liver-specific proteins and metabolic enzymes. Organovo expects to pursue this opportunity with a formal preclinical development program. For patients in need of a liver transplant, no robust alternatives exist today. Approximately 17,000 patients are on the U.S. liver transplant waiting list, and only 6,000 liver transplants are performed each year. Organovo plans to develop clinical solutions in two initial areas. First, acute-on-chronic liver failure is a recognized and distinct orphan disease entity encompassing an acute deterioration of liver function in patients with liver disease, which affects 150,000 patients annually in the United States. Second, pediatric metabolic liver diseases represent another orphan disease indication where a bioprinted liver tissue patch may show therapeutic benefits.
"We're excited to introduce an implantable bioprinted liver tissue as the first preclinical candidate in our therapeutic tissue portfolio, and see the early results as extremely promising. The scientific and commercial progress we have already made with engineered human liver tissue in drug toxicity testing has given us a firm foundation upon which to build a larger tissue for transplant. Advancing our first therapeutic tissue into preclinical development is an important milestone for Organovo, and we believe that 3D bioprinted tissues have an opportunity to provide options for patients who suffer from liver disorders. Organovo's approach is designed to overcome many of the challenges that cell therapies and conventional tissue engineering have struggled to address, including limited engraftment and significant migration of cells away from the liver. In our preclinical studies, we deliver a patch of functional tissue directly to the liver, which integrates well, remains on the liver and maintains functionality. We believe our tissues have the potential to extend the lives of patients on liver transplant lists, or those who do not qualify for transplants due to other factors."