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A Bengaluru-based biotech start-up, Pandorum Technologies, has become the first Indian firm to develop artificial living tissue, which performs the function of a human liver, and can lead to affordable, full-scale transplantable organs in few a years.

These 3D printed tissues, with reduced animal and human trials, would also make it possible to develop new medicines and vaccines. “This is a significant milestone,” said Tuhin Bhowmick, co-founder of Pandorum.

Another achievement is that Pandorum has been able to keep the cells alive for four weeks.

“The tissue can grow and survive up to eight weeks,” said Arun Chandru, the other co-founder and managing director of Pandorum.

Arun Chandru along with Tuhin Bhowmick, researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, founded Pandorum in 2011 to make artificial human organs on demand.

To build liver tissue of 5 mm size Pandorum needed 10 million liver cells, which were arranged in three-dimensional architecture, a bio-material made up of glucose, proteins and living cells extracted from a particular type of insect is used as ink, which is placed in three interchangeable dispensers of the printer’s head controlled by lasers.

Pandorum sourced a million liver cells from a bio-bank and multiplied them in its laboratory.

The Department of Biotechnology awarded Pandorum funding support by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council in 2012. The same year, the Company moved into a Bangalore based biotechnology incubation center – Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms in the Bangalore Bio-Cluster, to access state of the art experimental facilities and to do research and development. Since then the team has received several notable awards and recognition, and has developed various proprietary technology platforms related to tissue engineering.

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In India, thousands of lives are lost every year because of unavailability of organs. More than 75,000 livers, 200,000 kidneys and 50,000 hearts are needed in hospitals across the country. The current availability through organ donation and cadaver transplants is around 1,500 livers, 7,000 kidneys and just 50 hearts.

“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 said it is trying to reach out to contract research organisations that work on early-stage drug discovery.

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