Researchers 3D printed a heart the size of a rabbit using human tissue.
Credit: Advanced Science. © 2019 The authors.
It has four chambers, blood vessels and it beats ̵
In a first, 3D researchers have printed a heart using human tissue. Although the heart is much smaller than a human (it is only the size of a rabbit) and there is still a long way to go until it functions as a normal heart, the test-of-concept experiment can eventually lead to personal organs or tissue that could be used in the human body, according to a study published Monday, April 15, in the journal Advanced Science.
To print the heart, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel began taking a small sample of fatty tissue from a patient. In the laboratory, they separated this tissue into its component cells and the structure on which the cells sit, called the extracellular matrix. [7 Cool Uses of 3D Printing in Medicine]
Using genetic engineering, scientists then tweaked the various components, reprogrammed some of the cells to become heart muscle cells or cardiomyocytes, and some become cells that create blood vessels.
The researchers then read these cells – which act as "bioinks" – into the printer, which was programmed to print a heart based on CT scans taken from the patient and an artist's image of a heart. The printer took between 3 and 4 hours to print the small heart with basal blood vessels. The researchers then incubated the heart and fed it with oxygen and nutrients. Within a few days, the cells began to spontaneously beat.
But this blow was not quite like a healthy human heart would do. "We need the cells to turn synchronously not just individually," says study author Assaf Shapira, Laboratory Laboratory Laboratory and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory Manager at Tel Aviv University. In order for the heart to pump blood effectively through the body, its cells must merge – something the 3D printed heart has not done yet. "Currently, we're working on maturing the tissue," Shapira said.
Finally, a personal 3D-printed heart can ease the lack of transplant organs available to the patients and could also bypass some of the risks associated with transplanting another person's organ – namely, that the body's immune system can reject these foreign tissues. said Shapira to Live Science.
Camila Hochman Mendez, assistant director of body, repair and regeneration research laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute, who was not part of the study, said that the new results are "truly innovative and moving the field forward" by demonstrating that something more complex than a single wall of the heart can be printed. But the results also show all the obstacles that the field still faces.
To be able to print a fully functioning heart, scientists need to print a higher resolution organ – one with much more vasculature that could carry oxygen and nutrients through it, Hochman Mendez told Live Science. But this would require months of printing – a time when the cells would not survive.
The researchers emphasized that the small heart is still a "proof of concept", but that they hope to find a way to create more dense vasculature in the future.
"Of course, if we were to make a bigger heart, it would be expensive, it would take a lot more time to print, and much more material would have to be extracted from the patient," Shapira said.
In fact, much more research is still needed before it is common to just print "print" on the 3D printer at the medical center.
Originally published on Live Science .