Organovo: Biological 3D Printing


Organovo, a biotechnology company based in San Diego, California, is bringing new perspective to the potential of 3D printing with the introduction of the NovoGen MMX, the world’s first commercial 3D bioprinter, which is already being used to fabricate human tissue that is structurally and functionally accurate to its naturally occurring counterpart.

3D Bioprinting Software Development

To create the first 3D design software for bioprinting, Organovo teamed up with Autodesk, a world leader in the development of 3D design and engineering software. Jeff Kowalski, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Autodesk, believes that “working with Organovo to explore and evolve this emerging field will yield…fascinating and radical advances in medical research.”

Organovo 3D bioprinter
Organovo 3D bioprinter | Image source –

One such advance is the viability of printing several variations of a tissue, to allow for testing of the best composition and geometric form.

3D Printing with Bioink

The NovoGen MMX bioprinter currently employs living human cells in the form of multi-cellular building blocks, or bioink, which it prints with the help of a water-based gel known as hydrogel. A recent Gen Exclusive features an infographic depicting the bioprinting process.

3D bioprinting liver explained
An explanation of bioprinting | Image source –

First a layer of gel is placed on the printer bed. Then the bioink spheres are deposited on top of the hydrogel in the desired shape or pattern. This process is repeated to create a three-dimensional shape. As the spheres are stacked, they naturally meld into the intended formation, creating a finished 3D print.

Liver Tissue Testing

Organovo announced in a press release, late last month, that it has already made its first 3d liver tissue delivery to an independent lab for experimentation. The company’s liver tissue prototypes feature multiple cell types positioned relative to one another, with tissues comprised of up to 20 cell layers, and are able to produce enzymatic activity.

Custom Designed Tissue

One of the goals of the company is to commercially launch a 3D liver tissue product. Keith Murphy, Chairman and CEO of the company, believes that there is potential “for customers to design their own 3D tissues for production by Organovo”


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