Lucas123 writes: After 3D printing has produced ears, skin grafts and even retina cells that could be built up and eventually used to replace defective eye tissue, researchers expect to be able to produce the first functioning organ next year. The organ, a liver, would not be for the purpose of human implant — that will take years to complete clinical trials and pass FDA review. Instead, the liver would initially be for development and testing of pharmaceuticals. The field of 3D printing known as organs on a chip, will greatly increase the accuracy and speed of drug development and testing, researchers say. The company producing the liver, Organovo, has overcome a major stumbling block that faces the creation of any organ: printing the vascular system needed to provide it with life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients. Typically, 3D printed tissue dies in the petri dish before it can even be used because of that. "We have achieved thicknesses of greater than 500 microns, and have maintained liver tissue in a fully functional state with native phenotypic behavior for at least 40 days," said Mike Renard, Organovo's executive vice president of commercial operations.