Organovo will distribute its $200,000 inkjet-like organ printers to medical research centers starting this year. Their “ink” comes from stem cells (from adult bone marrow) guided by growth factors into specific cell types, then packed into droplets of “ink” containing up to 30,000 cells to be printed onto sheets of organic biopaper where they self-assemble into functional tissue.
Though at first they’ll only print “very basic tissues like blood vessels”, the CSO of Organovo sees the business potential in using their bio-printers to create artificial human organs for implanting. (“You give us your cells: we grow them, we print them…”) And he also raises the possibility of “designer organs”, artificially grown into customized sizes and shapes.
Meanwhile, doctors at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are also developing similar technology that would “scan the contours of a body part requiring a skin graft and then print skin onto it.”