Published: Tue, April 16, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

'First' 3D print of heart with human tissue, vessels unveiled

'First' 3D print of heart with human tissue, vessels unveiled

Scientists in Israel unveiled a 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels on Monday, calling it a first and a "major medical breakthrough" that advances possibilities for transplants.

BREAKING: Israeli scientists have created a real, live heart using human tissue in a revolutionary 3D printing process. "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", Prof. The team then made the extracellular matrix - made up of collagen and glycoproteins - into a hydrogel used as the printing "ink".

As stated in the abstract of the study, "These results demonstrate the potential of the approach for engineering personalized tissues and organs, or for drug screening in an appropriate anatomical structure and patient‐specific biochemical microenvironment".

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.

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D-printed heart made from human tissue in his laboratory. "It's completely biocompatible and matches the patient".

The heart the Tel Aviv University team printed in about three hours is too small for humans - about 2.5 centimetres, or the size of a rabbit's heart.

"People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels", he said. "In fact, this method allows us to print any organ that is required for a transplant and we believe that this method opens the door to future technologies, which will make the need for organ donors completely unnecessary".

3D printed construction of a miniature heart model.

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials [was] crucial to eliminate the risks of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", said Dr. Dvir. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

"The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can now contract, but we need them to work together", lead scientist Tal Dvir told Haaretz.

The research team said the next step will be to train the printed heart to act like an organic human heart by transplanting them into animals and eventually, humans. Given the number of patients suffering from CHF each year, and its high healthcare costs, the study's researchers were determined to "develop new approaches to regenerate the infarcted heart".

However, the ultimate goal is to have "organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely" within the next 10 years, Dvir says. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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