A new technology early in clinical trials could make it possible for doctors to use specialized 3D printers to fabricate new human tissue based on a patient's own cells.
Known as commercial bioprinting, the technology from San Diego start-up Organovo starts with cells from adipose tissue--essentially body fat--or bone marrow and is intended to use those cells as the basis for making new tissue.
As of right now, the benefit for humans is still years away, perhaps as many as four, said Organovo CEO Keith Murphy. And when and if the company's technology gets certified and hits the market, it will probably have limited application: most likely, the technology could be used at first mainly for crafting very small areas of tissue or new blood vessels.
But even those limited applications could mean, for example, that doctors may eventually have the ability to intervene in cases where, for example, a patient has a blocked or damaged blood vessel, and potentially prevent what might otherwise result in a forced amputation. Similarly, someone with damaged nerves could have a gap in a nerve bridged using regenerated cells printed by Organovo's machine.
Doing something like making a new liver is still a long way off. … Read more