There is no way of denying the fact that cancer touches everyone of our lives in some way. Some cases hit close to heart with loved ones and others with mere acquaintances, yet the impact is felt. Although the odds of survival are changing with advances in modern medicine, the odds are not encouraging enough for most.

Researchers at Organovo have been spending their time trying to improve those odds, researching ways to maintain viable liver cells created using their NovoGen MMX 3D bioprinter in petri dishes. Until recently, using conventional methods researchers were able to maintain functional liver cells in petri dishes for up to 48 hours. Now, researchers have pushed the boundaries further and are able to sustain fully functioning liver cells up to 40 days, a substantial improvement, all possible using bioprinting methods with the NovoGen MMX 3D bioprinter in a controlled environment.

The stable, liver specific functions observed in a 3D printed liver are similar to other bioprinted living tissues produced with the NovoGen bioprinter. The bioprinted liver tissues have proven to evolve into fully cellular, steady state living tissues that can sustain themselves over time. Organovo CEO Keith Murphy points out that these liver tissues demonstrate activity that resembles a native liver when presented with a known challenge drug. Murphy states that these developments are an “encouraging indication of utility in drug development,”

organ printing

Organovo has now began to work with pharmaceutical and academic colleague’s in order to create human biological disease models in 3D.

Other than the obvious ethical issues that pertain to animal testing, the result often are not reliable or dependable. Eliminating the animal testing process using bioprinting would sufficiently speed up the process of getting new drugs on the market, while getting rid of some ethical issues along the way. Currently, new treatments take close to ten years of study in test tubes and laboratory mice before they are tested.

Organovo’s bioprinting process begins with existing cancer cells from donated tumor samples. These cells are then allowed to grow and replicate in a controlled environment. When enough of the cells (bio-ink) are achieved, researchers use specialized software to shape cells into three dimensional layers. The cells grow into a network of living tissue after being printed. That tissue can then be studied, exposed to new cancer medications and examined.

Dr. Carroll of the Knight Cancer Institute feels that technology coming into play today will push the limits significantly further while having drastically more precision, “Technology gives us much more realistic model for discovery and testing cancer drugs,” Dr. Carroll continued to point out that by examining the molecular mechanics of a tumor at the systems level researchers can learn how they grow and spread, and more importantly, how to stop them. Hopefully this process will be perfected and implemented soon, and can hit the ground running in order to increase survival rates of this deadly disease.