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Organovo Aims To Recreate Body Organs

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Aired 9/8/10

Organovo, a small biotech company in San Diego, has found a way to copy human blood vessels and some nerve cells, but the ultimate goal is to recreate whole organs.

— Organovo, a small biotech company in San Diego has found a way to "print" human blood vessels and some nerve cells. They say the ultimate goal for the company, however, is to recreate whole human organs.

Organovo teamed up with an Australian bio-engineering company to make a sort of “printer” for human cells. Researchers use a patient’s own adult stem cells to create what they call “bio-ink," a formula that allows cells to re-grow into designated healthy tissue.

Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo, explains: "In a nut shell, we take cells from a patient and create bio-ink from those cells, we put them into a three dimensional bioprinter and create a pattern in three dimensions. The cells then fuse together and become a functional piece of tissue," he says.

“We’re really just making replicas of the individual cells. So these cells just as they do in your body multiply in our system and they’re doing that every day in your body, so it’s not like cloning. It’s really like re-growing the tissue of the right structure outside of the body," says Murphy.

He says it takes about 24 hours for cells to fuse together enough to create brand new tissue.

Murphy says the printed tissue has only been tested in rodents and is not FDA approved. But, he adds, several research universities have already purchased the cell-printer device.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Organovo's process as "copying." The correct term is printing.

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