“Approximately 18 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant. But that may change someday sooner than you think — thanks to 3D printing,” Lucas Mearian reports for Computerworld. “Advances in the 3D printing of human tissue have moved fast enough that San Diego-based bio-printing company Organovo now expects to unveil the world’s first printed organ — a human liver — next year. ‘We have achieved thicknesses of greater than 500 microns, and have maintained liver tissue in a fully functional state with native phenotypic behavior for at least 40 days,’ said Mike Renard, Organovo’s executive vice president of commercial operations.”

“Organovo’s researchers were able to bring together fibroblasts and endothelial cells, which perform the function of developing tiny vascular networks, allowing the company to achieve thick tissue with good cell viability,” Mearian reports. “The liver tissue model that Organovo plans to release next year is for research use only and will be used in the laboratory for medical studies and drug research. That’s important in its own right: Developing a new drug costs, on average, $1.2 billion and takes 12 years.”

“The creation of a viable liver is a watershed moment for the bio-printing industry and medicine because it proves 3D printed tissue can be kept alive long enough to test the effects of drugs on it or implant it in a human body where it can further develop,” Mearian reports. “To spur on the development of bio-printed organs, the Methuselah Foundation, a Springfield, Va.-based not-for-profit that supports regenerative medicine research, this month announced a $1 million prize for the first organization to print a fully functioning liver.”

“While it may be a decade or more before human trials for organ transplants are approved by the FDA, the creation of organ tissue still holds the prospect of revolutionizing medicine. Printing out sustainable organ tissue could allow pharmaceutical companies to develop and test drugs on human and not animal organs. Using human tissue yields more accurate results,” Mearian reports. “Researchers are now experimenting with laying down a thin layer of human tissue from any number of organs for pharmaceutical development. The process is known as creating an ‘organ on a chip’ or a ‘human on a chip.’ …Earlier this year, researchers at Princeton University created a functional ear using a modified $1,000 ink-jet printer. They said the ear they created has the potential to hear radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability because the tissue was combined with electronics as it grew in a petri dish.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: They should print out a brain for Ballmer.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Bill” for the heads up.]