Drug development Technologies
By Cindy Dubin, Contributing Editor
Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a 20-year-old technology whose time finally seems to have arrived. Interest in the equipment rose sharply last year; in 2012, the market for 3D products reached $777 million and could reach $8.4 billion by 2025 as medical uses for the printers are being developed, according to Lux Research.
A Toxicity Predictor
Organovo has focused its attention on the liver because, as Murphy explains, about 10 percent of all drugs in Phase 3 clinical testing fail due to liver toxicity. "One reason for that failure is because we currently test the drugs on animals or on cells on a Petri dish surface, and that just doesn't work for liver testing, " he says. "We see projects get green-lighted to move into clinical trials, but subtle effects of the drug on the liver come out over time."
As an alternative to animal testing and Petri dishes, Organovo is building what Murphy claims is a better model of the human liver. The company's proprietary bioprinting platform enables the reproducible, automated creation of living human tissues that mimic the form and function of native tissues in the body. The 3D bioprinted human tissues are constructed from tiny building blocks made of living human cells using a process that translates tissue-specific geometries and cellular components into 3D designs that can be executed by an Organovo NovoGen Bioprinter. Once built, the bioprinted tissues share many key features with native tissue, including tissue-like cellular density, presence of multiple cell types, and the development of key architectural and functional features associated with the target native tissue.
Organovo's 3D human tissues offer many advantages over standard cell-culture platforms due to the fact that three-dimensionality is achieved without dependence on biomaterial or scaffold components that would not be found in native tissues. Organovo's bioprinting technology was developed by the company's scientific founder, Prof. Gabor Forgacs, at the University of Missouri Medical Center at Columbia in 2003.
The living cells, taken from an individual, are bioinked (i.e., cells are treated and formulated to form the bioink), loaded into a cartridge, and inserted into the 3D printer, which is about 2' x 2' x 1.5'. If printing liver tissues, a 24-well plate is printed in about 45 minutes and usable for testing in just two days.
"Three-dimensional bioprinted tissues can help pharmaceutical companies speed up the drug discovery process allowing R&D teams to test new and promising drugs on functional human tissues during hit-to-lead (H2L) and lead optimization stages of drug development, " says Murphy. "This will help identify potential toxicity and efficacy issues before drugs ever enter clinical studies." In addition, these tissues last more than 40 days, which is a vast improvement over their 2D counterparts, which can only last for 48 hours. This would enable researchers to dose, monitor, and sample the same tissue over a longer period of time, allowing them to detect more subtle or longer-term effects.
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