Tiny 3D printed human heart created by scientists in transplant breakthrough

Henrietta Strickland
April 15, 2019

But it's the first to be printed with all blood vessels, ventricles and chambers, using an ink made from the patient's own biological materials. The non-cellular materials were turned into a gel that served as the bio-ink for printing, Dvir explained.

The process consists of three stages: the target organ is scanned via MRI, it is then printed using patient-specific bioinks, "substances made of sugars and proteins", made of their own cells after which the organ is then matured it in a suitable laboratory or host environment.

While it's not clear a printer can produce hearts that are superior to human ones, "perhaps by printing patches we can improve or take out diseased areas in the heart and replace them with something that works" perfectly, he said. Dvir. "But larger human hearts require the same technology".

For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated.

The tiny organ, now only the size of a cherry, was engineered from the tissue of patients which was use to create a bio-ink.

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Prof.

"The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can now contract, but we need them to work together. 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".

While the 2.5 centimeter-sized heart is too small for a human, the researchers believe it puts them a step closer to creating personalized organs for those in need of a transplant. The printed hearts could be tested on animals but there's no timetable for testing hearts on humans, he said.

"The method we have developed will allow us in the future to print a heart of any size required from the human tissue of patients themselves, meaning that the body will not reject it", Dvir said.

However, the ultimate goal is to have "organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely" within the next 10 years, Dvir says.

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