Scientists Create World's First 3D-Printed Heart Using Patient's Own Cells

A tiny heart is made in a 3D printer in a process developed by Tel Aviv University scientists

Scientists in Israel unveiled a 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels on Monday, calling it a first and a "major medical breakthrough" that advances possibilities for transplants. Furthermore, because the heart is made from the patient's own cells, there is a reduced chance that the transplant would fail.

While the 2.5 centimeter-sized heart is too small for a human, the researchers believe it puts them a step closer to creating personalized organs for those in need of a transplant. He worked with Prof. "This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials".

The impact: Heart disease causes one in four deaths in the USA (about 610,000 people a year), and there's a shortage of heart donors for transplants, so 3D-printed hearts could help solve a major issue.

In this research, the cells for 3D printing were taken from a biopsy of fatty tissue.

The researchers noted that heart transplants are the only form of treatment for people with end-stage heart failure and that many sick people die while waiting for a transplant, which can take six months or more. The waiting list for patients in the USA can be as much as six months or more. The non-cellular materials were turned into a gel that served as the bio-ink for printing, Dvir explained. The tissue's cellular materials were separated from those that weren't and reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, "master cells" able to make cells from all three body layers with the potential to produce any cell or tissue in the body. "The resulting autologous engineered tissue can be transplanted back into the patient, to fix or replace injured/diseased organs with low risk of rejection".

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Dvir's team said larger hearts could be developed using this same process.

A 3D network of extracellular macromolecules including collagen and glycoproteins was processed into a hydrogel that served as the printing "ink".

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.

The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, Dvir said. They said that an exact version of the heart needed by a transplant recipient could be built.

"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. In the past, researchers could manage to print a heart with only simple tissues without vessels, but this time they produced an entire heart, complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.

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