Researchers create 3D-printed heart with biological materials

Desiree Burns
April 17, 2019

The differentiated cells were then mixed with the bio-inks and were used to 3D-print patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.

The heart is small and made up of blood vessels, heart cells and small supporting structures. The team then separated the cellular and a-cellular material and reprogrammed all the cells to become pluripotent stem cells. A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel has brought that goal closer to a reality.

Tal Dvir of TAU, as the new developments look to battle heart disease which is the leading cause of death around the world. This has led to a major push in medical research to develop methods of replacing damaged hearts that don't rely on donated organs and reduce the chance of rejection of the donated organ by the body.

While it is true that scientists have succeeded in 3d printing the architecture of the heart, which has included cartilage and the aortal valve tissue, no research team as of yet has effectively generated the porous vascular system through which blood vessels carry out their business and without which an organ will necessarily perish.

Until now, researchers have only been able to 3D-print simple tissues lacking blood vessels.

Researchers detailed their breakthrough this week in the journal Advanced Science. "Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future", he said in a university news release.

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On Monday, journalists were shown the 3D print of a heart, which is roughly the size of a rabbit's heart, at Tel Aviv University in Israel, AFP reported. The extracellular matrix (a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins) were processed into a personalised hydrogel.

The next step is culturing printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, Dvir added.

Dvir's team said larger hearts could be developed using this same process.

Although the hearts may never be as sophisticated as a human's own heart, Dvir says that "perhaps by printing patches, we can improve or take out diseased areas in the heart and replace them with something that works".

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Dvir said. The maturing process will take about a month, after which they will transplant them into animals such as rabbits and rats for testing.

"Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", Prof Dvir said.

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