Researchers create 3D-printed heart with biological materials

The heart has cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have reportedly "printed" the world's first 3D, vascularised heart using a patient's own cells and biological materials.

According to the study, it is the first time that a heart has been printed with the use of "fully personalised, non-supplemented materials". 

The 3D-printed heart has cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Previous attempts to print a heart were either created from materials not derived from the patient's own cells, such as synthetic materials or animal tissue, or they did not have blood vessels.

To create the 3D heart, the researchers were required to perform a biopsy of a patient's fatty tissue. These fatty tissues were experimentally reprogrammed to become "pluripotent" or de-identified stem cells, and then exposed to "bio-inks" that helped to retrain them to become either heart or blood vessel cells. The study said that this allowed the "ink" to print out various cardiac patches or complex tissues structures that can be formed together to create a 3D heart.

The heart, however, is not capable of being transplanted into a human, as it is only about the size of a rabbit's heart, TAU School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology professor Tal Dvir said in a statement.

The TAU researchers also have plans to culture the 3D printed hearts and teach them how to "behave like hearts," Dvir said, as well as transplant 3D-printed hearts into animal models.

"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," Dvir said.

Development of replacement organs is not something new, with the first human to receive an artificial heart occurring in 2014. That particular 3D heart was powered by an external lithium-ion battery pack and weighing nearly 1kg, with a 3D-printed case, synthetic materials, and cow heart tissues designed to stop blood clots from forming.

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