Autodesk Wants To Build A Better Software For Printing Human Tissue

Your doctor may eventually use a 3-D modeling environment to build you new tissues and organs.

Bioprinters–or 3-D printing hybrids that can print human tissue–have been around for a few years now. As the technology emerged, a single nagging question stuck out in the mind of this post-architecture school student: what’s the software of choice for a scientist modeling a human organ?


Today, an announcement from biomedical startup Organovo and software giant Autodesk goes a long way towards answering it. According to a joint statement, the two companies will partner to create the first software designed specifically for modeling human tissue. “ Bioprinting has the potential to change the world,” said Jeff Kowalski, Autodesk’s CTO. “I think working with Organovo to explore and evolve this emerging field will yield some fascinating and radical advances in medical research.”

The planned software suite will support Organovo’s NovoGen MMX bioprinter, which uses cells like building blocks to replicate human tissue, right down to the level of blood vessels. Right now, the NovoGen is in use by a tiny group of specialists. But the company says that their goal is to “open up bioprinting to a broader group of users.” Pairing with Autodesk, then, is a smart idea: the San Francisco company makes some of the most learnable 3D software out there, from super-precise technical software like Revit and AutoCAD to MAYA, the dynamic modeling environment used to create the bulbous characters in blockbuster animated movies.

Do Autodesk and Organovo really intend to develop a software that can be used by consumers in their own homes? Not exactly. As CEO Keith Murphy explained, “This relationship [will] lead to the potential long-term ability for customers to design their own 3D tissues for production by Organovo.”

In other words, the goal isn’t to put a bioprinter in every home. Rather, the new software could open the technology up to a broader range of specialists, who could work together with Organovo to print the results. Which doesn’t sound very different from Staples’ new plan to allow customers to submit models for in-store 3-D printing.

There’s no word on a timeline for the new software, but we’ll likely hear more about it over the next few months.

[Autonomy Image: Tinydevil via Shutterstock]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.