Published: Tue, April 16, 2019
Medical | By

Researchers develop first printed 3D heart in major scientific breakthrough

Researchers develop first printed 3D heart in major scientific breakthrough

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers", the team's lead researcher, Professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University, told the news outlet.

Scientists in Israel on Monday unveiled a 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels, calling it a first and a "major medical breakthrough" that advances possibilities for transplants. Currently, the hearts can only contract but researchers plan on culturing the 3D printed hearts and teaching them how to operate like the real deal. "In our process, these materials serve as the bio-inks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3-D printing of complex tissue models", Dvir said. These tissue samples were experimentally reprogrammed to become "pluripotent" or de-identified stem cells.

Although the organ is only the size of a cherry and can not pump blood, experts said its creating is a "major medical breakthrough".

Current 3D printers are also limited by the size of their resolution and another challenge will be figuring out how to print all small blood vessels.

"Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future", said Dr. Dvir.

"At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit's heart", said Dvir. However, the rabbit-sized 3D printed heart, a focal point of the study, contains stem-cell derived cardiac-muscle cells (cardoimyocytes, or CMs) and vessel-lining endolthelial cells (ECs). "Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient". "In fact, this method allows us to print any organ that is required for a transplant and we believe that this method opens the door to future technologies, which will make the need for organ donors completely unnecessary".

Though promising, the team is quick to remind us that their hearts are not yet ready for human transplantation.

Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.

It takes about three hours to 3D print a "mini-heart", and the cells need another month to mature and form a pumping ability, Prof.

This article has been republished from materials provided by Tel Aviv University American Friends.

They hope in the next 10 years, organ printers will be in hospitals "around the world" and the procedures will be a routine practice.

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