Scientists and researchers have “printed” the world’s first 3D human heart, with the hopes it will become transplantable into heart disease patients within a decade.
Tel Aviv University researchers printed their findings in Advanced Science on Monday.
The size of a rabbit’s heart, the medical marvel is made from a patient’s own cells and biological materials and is the world’s first 3D vascularised engineered heart from human tissues.
Scientists and researchers involved in the project hold hope it could provide a viable cure for patients who suffer from end-stage heart disease, and require heart transplants.
“Given the dire shortage of heart donors, the need to develop new approaches to regenerate the diseased heart is urgent,” a statement from the Israeli university said.
Previously, regenerative medicine has only been able to create – or 3D print – hearts with simple tissues, not blood vessels.
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Professor Tal Dvir lead the research for the study and said this heart contained cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” Professor Dvir said.
“In our process these materials serve as the bioinks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models.
“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalised tissue and organ replacement in the future.”
To create the miniature human heart, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients.
Cellular and a-cellular materials were taken from the tissue, seperated, and reprogrammed into stem cells.
From that, macromolecules like collagen and proteins were turned into a hydrogel, which create the “ink” for the printing process.
Professor Dvir said the key to the success of the process was the use of “native” patient-specific materials.
“The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardises the success of such treatments,” he said.
The next step is training the hearts to behave as a heart should. When that’s been mastered, the hearts will be transplanted into animal test subjects.
“At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart,” Professor Dvir said.
“But larger human hearts require the same technology.
“We need to develop the printed heart further.
“The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method’s efficacy and usefulness.
“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.”
Professor Dvir is with the Tel Aviv University’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, and worked alongside Dr Assaf Shapira at the university’s Faculty of Life Sciences, and Nadav Moor, a doctoral student, to complete the study.