Researchers 3D-print heart from human patient's cells

Alicia Farmer
April 20, 2019

The team of scientists from Tel Aviv University printed the tiny heart complete with vessels, collagen, and biological molecules.

Their research involved taking a biopsy of fatty tissue from patients that was used in the development of the "ink" for the 3D print.

Although the heart was made with human cells and "and patient-specific biological materials", it's still too small to be used for an organ transplant, as it is only the size of a rabbit's heart, at just a few grams.

Journalists were shown a 3D print of a heart about the size of a cherry, immersed in liquid, at Tel Aviv University on Monday as the researchers announced their findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Science.

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers", Tal Dvir, lead author of the study from TAU, said in a statement.

Previously, scientists had been able to print only simple tissues without blood vessels. Once the process is complete, they will attempt to transplant them into animal models.

The scientists have stated that this still remains a far way off, as many challenges persist and need to be addressed before fully functional 3D printed hearts are made available for transplant into patients along with patches to regenerate defective hearts.

The cellular materials of the issue were then separated and the cells were genetically "reprogrammed" to become pluripotent stem cells - these are cells that can give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body.

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"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Dvir said.

However, the potential for it to be enlarged is there, Dvir said, adding that "larger human hearts require the same technology".

Dvir also explained that using the patient's own cells is key to engineering the tissues and organs.

In the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, leading to the deaths of around 610,000 people every year. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

The 3D printed heart provides hope to patients in the future and motivates more research into and innovation in the medical field.

While the heart is not capable of contracting or pumping out blood, the researchers hope they will figure out those details quite soon.

However, the printed vascularised and engineered heart is approximately 100 times smaller than a real human heart.

He told the outlet, "Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely".

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