2013-01-04

Co.Exist

A 3-D Printer Will Soon Print You New Organs

Design software company Autodesk has teamed up with bioprinting company Organovo to try to deliver us the future of personalized medicine: new organs that can be printed up just for you.

Take a trip to the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco and you’ll see all manner of products that have been helped along with the company’s design software—the electric Pi Cycle bike, a 3D-HD autostereoscopic display, a model of the new Bay Bridge span, and more. One day, that gallery might include human organs.

Autodesk recently announced that it’s teaming up with bioprinting company Organovo to develop software that can design human tissue to be printed out on 3-D printers. In the near future, the printed organs are expected to be used in research. But down the line, they could end up inside real, live humans—an alternative to today’s inefficient organ donation process.

Organovo is known for creating the first commercial 3-D bioprinters back in 2010; as of September 2012, the company had produced 10 bioprinters, each of which reportedly costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Created with technology from biophysicist Gabor Forgacs (he’s also the co-founder of test tube meat and leather startup Modern Meadow—and the father of the other cofounder, Andras Forgacs), Organovo’s NovoGen MMX Bioprinter shapes cells—often stem cells from a donor—into 3-D tissue that’s theoretically as good as anything created by the human body. Clinical testing is still years away.

The partnership with Autodesk isn’t completely unexpected. Autodesk’s Bio/Nano Programmable Matter research group collaborates with outside researchers on design software’s role in biotechnology.

Hod Lipson, head of Cornell’s Creative Machines Lab, explained the need for design software in organ printing in a Wall Street Journalarticle: "We have machines that can make almost anything, but we don’t have the design tools," he said. "In bioprinting, there is no computer-aided design software for body parts."

As surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrated on the TED stage in 2011, printable organs really aren’t that far from becoming reality (as long as the FDA doesn’t get in the way). Body part design software only speeds up the process.

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4 Comments

  • Elaineandartsings

     It's going to be amazing what the future will hold for people who need new organs. I was lucky to receive my sons kidney last year. He truly is my Angel to give me The Gift of Life.

  • bonooobong

    Amazing! The only thing I am afraid of is that this kind of service will be only available for the people of the western world, an average citizen will never be able to afford stuff like that... Although if we think about the airbags (just for an example), at the beginning, they were only built in the most expensive cars, and nowadays they are also in the cheapest ones. I hope it will be the same with medical 3d printing as well.

  • elaine

    I think eventually people will understand the process of transplant and how important it is to give. Many have it on their cards.  I thankfully had a good insurance that covered my transplant. There are a lot of people that can't afford insurance  or it's too late for them to get  coverage because of underlying sickness.
     If people only knew , but some don't think they will ever get sick. I lived with my kidney disease for 18 years. I didn't have dialysis thank goodness. Right now I am just grateful for my life and hope to continue to be healthy for most of my senior life.
         It will happen one day science will make a kidney for the generation to come.

  • Hugo Viljoen1983

    thats why its up to us to start making changes for future generations , people are thick selvish and power hungry  and its gonna take a long time to raise everyone to a level of understanding and compassion , if that is possible considering ... mankind~! lol