Researchers build 3D-printed heart out of patient's donor cells

A tiny heart is made in a 3D printer in a process developed by Tel Aviv University scientists

The biomedically engineered heart was created using a 3D printer by researchers at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel.

Prof. Tal Dvir presents a 3D printing heart made from human tissue in his laboratory in Tel Aviv University on April 15, 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Dvir noted that scientists have managed to print a 3D structure of a heart before, but not with cells or blood vessels.

He showed a 3D print of a heart with visible vessels; the miniature heart measured less than 3 centimetres in size.

The tiny organ, now only the size of a cherry, was engineered from the tissue of patients which was use to create a bio-ink. But the latest feat is the first time scientists have created a complex organ with biological materials.

The proof-of-concept feat could pave the way for a new type of organ transplant. A transplant is the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure, but there is a severe shortage of heart donors.

A 3D-printed, small-scaled human heart engineered from the patient's own materials and cells.

Until now, 3D printing has only been used to produce simple tissues without blood vessels, including making the structure of a heart but without the necessary vascular elements to make it actually pump. "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.

The technology is still many years out from human transplants, though - the team's rodent-sized printed heart isn't quite there yet. Inside sat a small heart the size and colour of several pencil erasers.

"But larger human hearts require the same technology". Their research was published in Advanced Science.

The process involved taking a biopsy of fatty tissue from patients, after which the cellular and a-cellular materials were then separated. As it continues to be redesigned to better reflect human anatomy, scientists are intrigued by the potential for 3D heart printing to become a widespread, life-saving technique in medical centers around the world.

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", said Dvir. Dvir says. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

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

"The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can now contract, but we need them to work together".

"We need to develop the printed heart further", Dvir said.

The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, according to Prof. The hope is that within "10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", Dvir said.

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