When it comes to testing new drugs the first place that researchers look at is the liver. The reason for this is that the liver's function is to clean the blood. So if a drug is going to have a bad reaction in the body it will most likely show up in the liver. Ideally researchers would like a supply of tiny human livers so that they can continually test new drugs. Up until now, that has been impossible. Using a 3D printer Organovo can create tiny three dimensional livers that can be used to test new drugs. These tiny livers, called exVive3D are made using a bioprinter. There are two heads to this printer, one creates the support structure and the other places the liver cells.
These tiny livers are just a few millimeters in length but they function exactly like a human liver, even producing liver proteins and synthesizing cholesterol. This is a huge difference from the current liver cells used by pharmaceutical companies which are two dimensional and do not always function in the same way as a real organ. These cells are viable for 42 days and have been shown to be able to differentiate between structurally related toxic and non-toxic compounds. It can even detect metabolites. This means that not only can these cells test drug reactions over a period much longer than 2 dimensional cells it can do so much more precisely. The first models will be available to researchers and companies at Organovo facilities so all testing will be done by Organovo researchers, but soon these tiny livers will completely change how drug testing is done.