Israeli researchers have unveiled the first-ever 3D printed heart using a patient’s own cells and tissues, calling it a major medical breakthrough that could be used in the treatment of diseased hearts, and eventually, for full transplants. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in Australia and in most of the western world.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University produced an entire heart, complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers in a marked improvement over previous attempts that only printed simple tissues without vessels, website Engadget reported. The heart that was printed is roughly the size of a rabbit’s heart and took three hours to print, with head researcher Professor Tal Dvir stating that "larger human hearts require the same technology."
“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 personalised tissue and organ replacement in the future,” MSN reported. The use of “native” patient-specific materials is crucial to successfully engineering tissues and organs.
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.
Researchers must now teach the printed hearts “to behave” like real ones. The cells are currently able to contract, but do not yet have the ability to pump. Then they plan to transplant them into animal models, hopefully in about a year, Dvir stated.
"Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely," Professor Dvir said in a press release published by Tel Aviv University.
He added that given a chronic shortage of heart donors, the need to develop new methods to regenerate a diseased heart was urgent given the demand.