A hundred years ago people couldn’t imagine TV, 20 years ago if you asked someone if we could print human organs, 99.9999% (you get the idea) of people would have said no. In a previous blog (Growing Body Parts), we told you about a process where porous materials were being used along with a person’s cells to basically grow organs and body parts. Long story short, you take the special polymer, put it in a bioreactor with some cells, let the cells multiply, attach it to the body to test it out for a while and presto a new body part or organ. I know I made tons of hard and complex work sound simple, but that is the basic idea.
However, what if it was even easier? What if you could take a 3-D bioprinter and create an organ right when it was needed, almost instantly. The types and methods of surgery would radically change and you would basically be doing them with the persons own cells. Organovo, founded by Gabor Forgacs and his team from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
The basic idea is that human cells are taken and shaped into tissue through the bioprinter. The bioprinter uses a liquid filed with human cells. The liquid is stacked into multiple layers which is held together by a special gel. The gel holds the cells together long enough to allow nature to takes its course. At that point the cells begin to form into actual tissue just like when a human is developing. However, the biggest problem is the thickness of the tissue. The natural makeup and idea makes it tough for the bioprinter to continue to work as the thickness of the tissue increases.
The company has received multiple patents and is considered a leader in this field. Many other companies and universities have started to throw resources at this same idea. However, Organovo seems to continue to lead the pack. While I am a little worried about the idea of people being made in a bioprinter the lifesaving prospects of such a tool sound incredible.
Check out Gabor Forgacs presentation at TEDMED