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Researchers Develop ‘Proof of Concept’ 3D Printed Heart

Live Science reports on the development of a ‘proof of concept’ 3D printed heart created by a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel.  The researchers published their findings recently in the scientific journal Advanced Science.

This heart, “which has four chambers and blood vessels” beats – ‘sort of.’  The heart was 3D printed from human tissue.  “Though the heart is much smaller than a human’s (it’s only the size of a rabbit’s), and there’s still a long way to go until it functions like a normal heart, the proof of concept experiment could eventually lead to personalized organs or tissues, which could be used in the human body.”

The team began 3D printing the heart “by taking a small sample of fatty tissue from a patient.  In the lab, they separated this tissue into its component cells and the structure on which the cells sit, called the extracellular matrix.  Using genetic engineering, the scientists then tweaked the various components, reprogramming some of the cells to become cardiac muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, and some to become cells generating blood vessels.”

These cells were then loaded into a 3D printer as bioinks.  The printer “had been programmed to print a heart based on CT scans taken from the patient and an artist’s depiction of a heart.  The printer took between 3 and 4 hours to print the small heart with basic blood vessels.”

The team hopes one day “a personalized 3D printed heart might ease the shortage of transplant organs available to patients and could also circumvent some of the risks associated with transplanting another person’s organ – namely, that the body’s immune system can reject these foreign tissues.”

The next step is “to print a full-size, fully functioning heart.”  In order to do this, “the scientists would need to print a higher resolution organ – one with much more vasculature capable of carrying oxygen and nutrients through it.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Live Science

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