Researchers from the Tel Aviv University reached a new milestone in medicine after they managed to 3D print the first fully vascularized heart in the world by using a patient’s tissue and cells.
The achievement marks significant progress for regenerative medicine, a hybrid field which removed the borders between technology and biology. Tissues were printed in the past, but they didn’t feature any blood vessels. The resulting heart contains the parts which are needed to be fully functional, including ventricles, atriums, and blood vessels.
According to official statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the case of American citizens, male and female alike. The number of heart donors has remained slim, encouraging researchers to develop new ways which could help the hearth to regenerate.
Scientists managed to 3D print a fully functional human heart for the first time
The heart was crafted by using human cells and samples of biologic material recovered from the patient. The researchers used them to create complex bioinks which can be used to 3D print complex tissue models. The experiment proves that in the future we will have the option to engineer custom tissues and organ replacements.
For now, the size of the heart is quite small, being on par with that of a rabbit. But the team is confident that the same technology could be used to construct larger hearts. The research began with a sample of fatty tissue which was taken during a biopsy. Several cells were collected from the samples and were modified to become stem cells. The resulting cells were mixed with collagen and glycoproteins, and processed into a hydrogel which could be used by the printer.
A large focus was placed on compatibility, and the resulting heart featured patient-specific tissue which means that it will not trigger a response from the immune system of the patient. Further research is needed, but the initial results are promising. It will take a long while until a heart suitable for humans will be available, but the study could save millions of lives in the future.