World’s 1st 3D-printed heart with ‘cells, blood vessels’ unveiled in Israel

World’s 1st 3D-printed heart with ‘cells, blood vessels’ unveiled in Israel

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. For patients who find themselves with end-stage heart failure, a transplant is the only option.

The scans generated high-resolution constructs of heart, with patches that match the anatomical and biochemical features of the patient, thus reducing the chance of rejection or malfunctioning in the future transplantations.

The researchers are working to overcome this issue by taking a biopsy of fatty tissue from patients that was used in the development of the "ink" for the 3D print.

Until now, researchers have only been able to 3D-print simple tissues lacking blood vessels. After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.

The heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University is about the size of a rabbit's.

The next step? The scientists will have to figure out how to expand cells to have enough tissue to create a human-sized heart for transplants. The cells were then "reprogrammed" to become stem cells, which turned into heart cells.

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The cells can contract, but researchers need to teach them to pump.

While the team's achievement is notable in this regard, Dvir contends its only the first breakthrough among many that will be needed for a truly operable organ: "We need to develop the printed heart further", Dvir said.

Research for the study was conducted jointly by Prof Dvir, Dr Assaf Shapira of TAU's Faculty of Life Sciences and Nadav Moor, a doctoral student in Prof Dvir's lab.

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.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dvir says. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

The hearts can now contract, but still need to learn how to "behave like hearts", Dvir said, adding that he hopes to succeed and prove his method's efficacy and usefulness. The maturing process will take about a month, after which they will transplant them into animals such as rabbits and rats for testing. 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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