Dec 22, 2015 | By Kira
Bangalore-based bio-tech startup Pandorum Technologies has successfully developed artificial 3d bioprinted liver tissues that mimic human liver functions, enabling affordable medical research for developing new life-saving medicines and vaccines, and eventually leading to full-scale, transplantable 3D printed organs.
The breakthrough makes Pandorum the first Indian firm to develop 3D bioprinted liver tissues, and represents a major step forward in the on-demand manufacturing of 3D printed human organs. In addition, the company noted that it was able to keep the artifical liver cells alive for as long as four weeks.
The 3D bioprinting market is one of the fastest growing areas in 3D printing right now, with companies in a veritable race to be the first to develop functional human tissue, skin, vascular systems, and eventually entire organs. Quite recently, we have seen a few major breakthroughs, including 3D printed ‘living’ blood vessels that can deliver nutrients and self-assemble just as in the human body; and the first 3D printed thyroid gland used in a successful transplant operation on a mouse.
In terms of 3D bioprinted livers in particular, there is a very strong demand. The liver is the body’s main defense against toxins, and it is also considered the most complex organ in the human body in terms of function. Achieving functional artificial 3D printed tissues would significantly reduce animal and human trials while helping doctors develop new life-saving medicines and vaccines.
"Liver toxicity and drug metabolism are the key hurdles, and contributors to failed human trials. Our 3D bio-printed mini-livers that mimic the human liver will serve as test platforms for discovery and development of drugs with better efficacy, less side-effects and at lower costs," said Arun Chandru, Pandorum Technologies MD and Co-Founder.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Tuhin Bhowmick, PhD, Pandorum’s second co-founder. “Being able to engineer complex tissues such as the human liver is no easy task.” He added that the development of artificial organs has multiple clinical uses, from developing bio-artificial liver support systems for patients with liver failure, to eventually addressing the acute shortage of human organs available for surgical transplantation.
Indeed, in India alone, over 75,000 patients are in need of liver transplants, with only 1,500 organ donations available. An additional 200,000 patients are in need of kidneys, and 50,000 of hearts, though the number of transplants available for those organs is a mere 7,000 and 50, respectively. 3D bioprinting has the power to significantly reverse these numbers and save hundreds of thousands of lives.
In the more immediate future, however, the 3D bioprinted liver tissue has numerous substantial uses for pharmaceutical drug and vaccine testing. On average, pharmaceutical companies can spend upward of $10 billion USD and even 10 years in research and development to get a single new drug to market with FDA approval. Pandorum expects its technology could reduce the costs of drug R&D and testing by as much as 30 percent, particularly in the Indian market, which, according to multi-organ surgeon at Aster Integrated Liver Care, Sonal Asthana, has much more stringent drug testing regulations than the US and Japan.
"It is a multi-billion dollar fast growing market, and we intend to continue being a leader. More importantly, our technology has the potential to impact millions of lives," Chandru said.
Pandorum Technologies was founded in 2011 by Chandru and Bhowmick, graduates of the Indian Institute of Science, with the goal of developing bio-mimetic elastomeric protein-based hydrogels for tissue engineering applications. The biotech startup is supported by grants from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Government of India. It is located in the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), a dedicated lab space in Bangalore for startups and scientific entrepreneurs.
Though Pandorum is the first Indian firm to successfully develop 3D bioprinted liver tissue, significant advancements have been made in this field in other parts of the world. Namely, pioneering 3D bioprinting company Organovo achieved fully cellular 3D human liver tissue in 2013, and by 2015, had announced the full commercial release of its exVive3D Human Liver Tissue for preclinical drug discovery testing. Similarly, in China, scientists at Hangzhou Electronic Science and Technology University used a Regenovo 3D bioprinter to 3D print artificial hepatic lobules, a major step towards producing full 3D printed human livers.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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