Scientists Print World's First 3D Heart

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

A 3D-printed, small-scaled human heart engineered from the patient's own materials and cells.

The 3D printed heart is replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers.

To do this, they separated the cellular material from the tissues and reprogrammed it to become pluripotent stem cells. While scientists have advanced various procedures in heart transplantation, the situation for patients in needs remains less than favorable on two grounds: the finding of a suitable donor is hard and the bodies acceptance of this foreign entity is not without risk of fatal rejection of the immune system.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and Israel, and heart transplants are often only afforded to those with end-stage heart failure, but the lengthy wait (up to six months) for a suitable donor can often prove fatal.

While it's not clear a printer can produce hearts that are superior to human ones, "perhaps by printing patches we can improve or take out diseased areas in the heart and replace them with something that works" perfectly, he said.

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JERUSALEM, April 15 (Xinhua) - Tel Aviv University scientists said on Monday that they have printed the first 3D heart, by using patient's cells and materials. Making a human heart model is a major medical breakthrough.

"At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit's heart", said Dvir. The cellular material from the tissues was used as the "ink" for the print job. "The resulting autologous engineered tissue can be transplanted back into the patient, to fix or replace injured/diseased organs with low risk of rejection". The extracellular matrix (a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins) were processed into a personalised hydrogel. The cells are now able to contract, but do not yet have the ability to pump.

Using the patient's own tissue was important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.

Researchers must now teach the printed hearts "to behave" like real ones. Once this key issue is solved, the scientists plan to transplant the 3D prints of hearts into animal models first, possibly in about a year, Dvir told AFP. At this stage, the 3-D heart produced at TAU is sized for a rabbit, but the professors said that larger human hearts could be produced using the same technology. They said that an exact version of the heart needed by a transplant recipient could be built.

Maybe in a decade, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely, according to Tel Aviv university statement.

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