3D Printing Notches Another Major Healthcare Breakthrough

Source: Organovo Holdings.

Engineering human tissue has always been a dream of drug developers, as it could mean the rapid study of clinical pharmacokinetics. The idea behind having the ability to test on human tissues is that it could save millions upon millions of dollars in testing costs, but it could also greatly reduce the amount of guessing spent on whether or not a drug would be toxic to a patient. Organovo's 3D liver assay allows researchers to work with bioengineered human liver samples and do just this.

In its first quarter on the market exVive3D brought in nearly $140,000 when you include product and service revenue. Previously, Organovo's revenue had been entirely tied to collaborative research. Although this sales figure might be a bit low for most investors' expectations, it's possible that drug developers and researchers are simply waiting for more feedback from their peers before taking the dive themselves.

Source: Flickr user Umberto Salvagnin.

Bioengineered human liver tissue is just the beginning . Recently, Organovo and the Yale School of Medicine announced a collaboration, which is being funded by the Methuselah Foundation, to combine Organovo's bioprinting technology with Yale's top researchers to create transplantable organs. While taking this from concept to reality is a slow process, if organs could be bioengineered on a mass scale at some point in the future, we could eliminate organ donor waiting lists!

This will take time

I really enjoy scientific breakthroughs, and the news this week out of Tufts University and the University of Pavia is encouraging. It certainly validates that what Organovo is doing on a larger scale could very well succeed. However, from the viewpoint of an investor, it could be many years before Organovo can turn that success into consistent profits.

Probably the biggest factor working in Organovo's favor is its unique technology. That alone could lead to a number of upfront cash payments as drug developers look to partner with Organovo to develop new therapies (or in the case of Yale, transplantable organs).

But for the time being I'd suggest that playing it cautious is probably the smartest thing investors can do. It's worth closely monitoring Organovo and other 3D advances in the healthcare arena, but it's just too early for this area to be a viable investment opportunity.

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Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong , track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong , and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong .The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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