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Yale Univ, Organovo to Develop 3-D Print Transplant Tissue

Organovo bio-printer

Organovo bio-printer (Organovo Holdings Inc.)

3 December 2014. Yale University and Organovo Inc. in San Diego are collaborating on development of synthetic tissue produced on three-dimensional printers for research on transplants in humans. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed, but Yale and Organovo say the project is funded by the Methuselah Foundation.

Organovo designs and produces human tissue for research and transplant, using its own bio-printing technology. The company says it combines engineering with biology to produce living tissue that acts like natural human tissue. By adapting 3-D printing, says Organovo, it can produce tissue in three dimensions without first producing a framework or scaffold, yet still begin with a patient’s own cells as the basis of new tissue, thus avoiding problems of rejection encountered with donated tissue.

Organovo offers a 3-D bio-printer that takes human cells and shapes them into tissue, with cellular viability and biological functions that the company says is superior to animal models. The printer (pictured at top) constructs building blocks in any shape for the desired cell type, then deposits cell aggregates from a print cartridge one layer at a time, creating a stacked succession of 2-D patterns. An inert gel surrounding the stacked layers holds them in place.

Among work by Organovo is a human liver model that produces tissue with hepatocytes providing basic functions of the liver, as well as cellular connections and architectures found in a human liver. The company says the model, presented at a scientific meeting in 2013, also has the network of tiny blood vessels found in liver tissue. In addition, the model produces liver-specific proteins and performs functions more like natural tissue than 2-D liver cell cultures.

Under the agreement with Yale, Organovo will provide access to its bioprinter technology for research in tissue transplantion by Yale. The technology is expected to be shared between the university’s medical and engineering schools in New Haven, Connecticut.

“This field may provide a unique and new opportunity where we can print 3-D organs that can supplement or replace the shortage of organs out there worldwide,” says John Geibel, who directs research in surgery at Yale, in a university statement. Geibel forsees 3-D printing used in the for short-term replacement organs, while a patient waits for a full-functioning donated organ.

Methuselah Foundation, in Springfield, Virginia, allocates $500,000 to make available bio-printing technology from Organovo at a number of universities for transplantion research. The foundation also sponsors a challenge competition with a prize of $1 million for a team that creates a regenerated or bioengineered liver keeping aline a large animal without native liver function for 90 days.

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