Published: Wed, April 17, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

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

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

Once researchers print a heart that functions as it should, they can start testing their technology on real animal models. The heart is not ready for use in a human, said Dr. Max Gomez of CBS New York, noting that a working heart has many critical elements that have not yet been developed by the printer.

This latest invention represents a major turning point for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), as heart transplantation is the only definitive treatment for patients in the end-stages of the disease.

Transplant rejection, which occurs when the recipient's immune system targets transplanted tissue, is a common problem in heart transplant patients.

A biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients to ultimately create a patient-specific 3D heart, according to the study. "Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-print thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient".

The scientists allege that the small heart is the world's first engineered vascular heart ever made with a 3D printer, according to CBS News. But the achievement demonstrates the potential for being able to 3-D print full-sized organs one day, the research team told The Jerusalem Post. The breakthrough was reported Monday in a paper in Advanced Science.

When they do benefit, they can fall victim to their bodies rejecting the transplant - a problem the researchers are seeking to overcome.

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Though the heart cells now contract, they're not synchronized or entirely functional. The team then separated the cellular and a-cellular material and reprogrammed all the cells to become pluripotent stem cells. The team says that larger human hearts will require the same technology.

The inspiration for the study was both Israel's and the United States's issue with heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the USA and the second leading cause in Israel.

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

The next step, they said, is to teach the hearts to behave like human hearts.

With that said, while the heart is now too small for a human as it's more appropriately sized for a rabbit, the process used to create it shows a potential for one day being able to 3D print patches and maybe full transplants. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method's efficacy and usefulness. With this achievement, the researchers at Tel Aviv University theorised that organ printers could be available at hospitals as early as within 10 years.

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