Researchers managed to print a fully functional and vascularized heart on a 3D printer

Doctors are more and more willing to use 3D printing when it comes to creating missing parts for patients. However, no one has yet managed to create a fully functional heart. That is why this message is very important.

This is the first time anyone has managed to print the whole heart with cells, blood vessels and chambers - emphasizes prof. Tal Dvir from the University of Tel Aviv.

The Dvira team started the whole venture from taking body fat from patients. The biological material was then separated from living cells that had been reprogrammed to allow them to be transformed into pluripotent stem cells. Biological material, i.e. the extracellular matrix (ECM), was transformed into a hydrogel personalized under the patient, which in the entire undertaking served as an ink.

Vascularized heart from a 3D printer

After mixing with the hydrogel, stem cells diversified into all the components of the human heart - from cardiomyocytes, through endothelial cells to the lining of blood vessels. This idea allowed to create perfectly matched patches with blood vessels from which it was possible to build the whole heart.

Most importantly, the artificially created organ was fully compatible with the patient's immune system. This means that in the future, organs printed this way will be ready for a plug & play transplant, without the need for administration of immunosuppressive drugs and without the risk of rejection of the new organ by the patient's body.

Biocompatibility of the acquired materials is crucial in eliminating the risk of rejection of the printed implant. To do this, the biomaterial should have the same biochemical, mechanical and topographic properties as the patient's own tissues. The method developed by us is quite simple and provides printed in 3D thick, vascularized and perfused cardiac tissues with features identical to the immunological, biochemical and anatomical features of the patient. - says Dvir.

What's next?

The next stage of the research is to teach the artificial heart of proper behavior. It is, of course, synchronic contraction and pumping of blood. Therefore, moreover, the first batch of printed prototypes was printed on a smaller scale - corresponding more or less to the size of ripe cherry or - the size of a rabbit's heart.

If artificial hearts manage to learn the right reflexes, the next phase of the experiment provides for implanting it with experimental animals, which - if everything goes as planned - will be done more or less during the year.

According to Dvir, printing organs in this way will become a routine procedure, offered in hospitals for approximately 10 years. Although in the beginning they will probably be a little less complicated organs, than the heart, or smaller patches, thanks to which doctors will be able to repair the affected area. For example, a part of the heart marked by post-infarction scars.

Biodruk 3D is much better than silicone replacements

The creation of an artificial heart is not a huge breakthrough in medicine. We've mastered this trick some time ago. Well, the alternatives to our main pump, made of silicone, can beat in the same way as the original. Such a heart was printed in Zurich, in the ETH Zurich center. The only difference is the additional chamber, acting as a motor driven by compressed air. The artificial organ is also slightly a bit heavier than the biological heart. This construction is much less unreliable than mechanical pumps, which can additionally cause serious health complications.

The question is in which direction the regenerative medicine will develop. We can either focus on printing silicone constructions, which in time will probably become much more efficient than natural hearts, or develop the idea of ​​Tel Aviv scholars, that is, printing fully organic and compatible hearts-replacements, created from stem cells taken from the patient.

Or develop both ideas in parallel. The method using stem cells will probably be a more expensive and more natural procedure. It may turn out that less affluent people will opt for a cheaper, silicone alternative. It sounds like a part of a dystopian vision of the future, in which our wallet decides about the quality of implanted implants.

I am also wondering whether the method developed at the University of Tel Aviv will be able to be used by older people, from whom it is not so easy to download the genetic material that is able to reprogram fully functional stem cells. This is of course another problem that regenerative medicine will have to deal with. I suspect that in the future, much more often than now, we will - with common sense - store our healthy, fully functional (and young) stem cells in banks. Yes, then do not worry about when we are 80, we want to insert a new OEM heart.

Researchers managed to print a fully functional and vascularized heart on a 3D printer


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