This 3D printed heart was made using human fatty tissues (Image credit: Tel Aviv University)
3D printing can be used for various applications, like creating toys, clothing, and even food. But thanks to a new breakthrough it can even be used to create organs. Tel Aviv University researchers have successfully printed the world’s first 3D heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. They were able to produce an entire heart, complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers, which is a big step forward from other attempts that only printed simple tissues without vessels. Their remarkable findings were published in Advanced Science.
"This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. 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," Professor Dvir of TAU's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, says. "People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels. Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future."
To create the heart, the team started with a biopsy of fatty tissue taken from patients. The cellular and a cellular materials of the tissues were separated and processed into a hydrogel that acted as the printing “ink.” From there, researchers create complex tissue models, including cardiac patches and eventually an entire heart. But there is a catch – the heart isn’t very big. It’s only about the size of a rabbit’s heart. Luckily, the same technology can be used to create human-sized organs in the future.
So far, the heart can only contract, but researchers plan to culture the 3D printed organ and teach it how to behave like a real heart. Researchers think the cell will need to mature for about another month before it can beat and contract. They also want to transplant the 3D printed heart into animal models. While there are no plans to test the 3D printed heart on humans, the team hopes it can act as a replacement for areas of the heart that are diseased or need to be improved.
Heart disease is a serious matter that affects millions of people. If the 3D printed heart is a success, it can drastically change how we treat and address heart issues. Imagine being able to replace bad tissues with stronger ones from the 3D printed heart. It has the potential to help people around the world. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear about this medical breakthrough.
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