Software giant Autodesk is partnering with biomedical startup Organovo to create 3D design tools for printing tissue. The project, announced today, will result in software that works with Organovo's NovoGen MMX bioprinter, currently one of the only commercial systems for printing biological materials. Bioprinting is still in its infancy, but it's possible to create human tissues that can then be used either directly in surgery or to help with drug testing — general-purpose printers have even been used to create blood vessel networks, though actual human implantation is far away.

There's no timeline for the software or other collaborations between Autodesk and Organovo, but a press release promises "the potential long-term ability for customers to design their own 3D tissues for production by Organovo." That could theoretically do for tissue building what ordinary computer-aided design programs currently do for plastics-based 3D printing, even if designing a bioprinted structure would take extensive knowledge and testing.