Scientists unveil 'first' 3D print of heart with human tissue, vessels

Scientists unveil 'first' 3D print of heart with human tissue, vessels

Researchers from Tel Aviv University on Monday announced they had printed a 3D vascularised heart made from a patients' own tissue - an achievement that the university touted as a "major medical breakthrough".

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers", says Prof. Professor Tal Dvir is pictured holding the heart, main.

The staggering development prompted Israel's Foreign Ministry to react, citing it as yet another exceptional example of Israeli innovation. For instance, a team of researchers at ETH Zurich created a 3D printed artificial heart back in 2017, but rather than using human tissue, those researchers used a flexible material. "In fact, this method allows us to print any organ that is required for a transplant and we believe that this method opens the door to future technologies, which will make the need for organ donors completely unnecessary". While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells and efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells, the extracellular matrix (ECM), a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules, such as collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing "ink".

The inspiration for the study was both Israel's and the United States's issue with heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. and the second leading cause in Israel.

They then mixed the cells and the hydrogel to create so-called "bio-inks" for cardiac patches, which were followed by an entire heart.

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Though promising, the team is quick to remind us that their hearts are not yet ready for human transplantation.

The tiny organ, now only the size of a cherry, was engineered from the tissue of patients which was use to create a bio-ink.

Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said. Until now, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.

While it remains a far way off, scientists hope one day to be able to produce hearts suitable for transplant into humans as well as patches to regenerate defective hearts. Inside sat a small heart the size and colour of several pencil erasers.

"Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", Dvir said in a press release published by Tel Aviv University.

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