Organovo's 3-D printed liver hits drug performance milestone

3-D printed liver tissue--Courtesy of Organovo

In a new era of R&D cutbacks at Big Pharma, the industry is looking for alternative ways to test new drugs before forking over millions of dollars to conduct clinical trials. Neither animals nor two-dimensional cell culture assays are practical for predicting drug toxicity in human cells, particularly liver toxicity. But the emerging field of bioprinting has the potential to test the safety of drugs more effectively for a myriad of diseases.

Organovo, one company that's developing a 3-D bioprinting platform, has achieved a milestone with its 3-D printed liver. The San Diego-based outfit's product candidate is designed to help drug companies more accurately predict liver toxicities. The company last week revealed new data at the Annual Cell Therapy Bioprocessing Conference in Bethesda, MD, showing that its artificial liver retained key functions in bioprinted tissues for up to 40 days. The new data show that the product could assess toxicology problems in human liver over a long period of time. In contrast, 2-D cell cultures have a performance period of about 48 hours.

"The fact that these tissues demonstrate similar activity to native liver when presented with a known challenge drug is an encouraging indication of utility in drug development," said Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo, in a statement.

Tissue that remains responsive for one month or longer would be beneficial to pharma companies because it would allow researchers to administer various doses of a drug on the same tissue. That ability could produce more accurate toxicology data on drugs at an earlier stage of development.

The fully cellular 3-D liver, which Organovo first presented in April at the 2013 Experimental Biology conference in Boston, is made up of multiple cell types arranged in distinct spatial patterns that replicate features of natural tissue architecture. The company plans to launch its product in 2014.

- here's the press release