Tel Aviv University on Monday (April 15) presented a prototype of a miniature heart, which scientists say is the world's first heart created with a 3D printer using human tissue. Until now, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels. Tal Dvir of TAU's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, who led the research for the study. While the Tel Aviv University (TAU) team's 3D-printed heart doesn't actually work yet, it is the closest anyone has ever come to artificially replicating one of our most complex and vital organs. "Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future".
The Tel Aviv team extracted fatty tissue from patients and used this as the "ink" for the 3D printing, a blueprint with which to create tissue models. The extracellular matrix (a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins) were processed into a personalised hydrogel. By alternating between the two different inks, the researchers were able to construct patches of heart tissue with blood vessels that are compatible with the patient's immune system.
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 3D-printing technology is already being used to construct entire houses in just 24 hours, but using the tech to create a human heart was proving hard.
For starters, creating a human heart would take much longer and require billions of cells - not just millions.
He showed a 3D print of a heart with visible vessels; the miniature heart measured less than 3 centimetres in size. It will need to undergo a maturing process in bioreactors to keep the cells alive and grow them to accommodate a life-sized heart.
Regardless, the development is a massive step for the advancement of organ transplantation.
Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are now the only option available for patients in the worst cases.
That means there's an urgent need to develop new ways to regenerate a diseased heart, according to the researchers.
"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Prof. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".
"Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient", he added. Dvir. They then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models. These tissue samples were experimentally reprogrammed to become "pluripotent" or de-identified stem cells. The bioinks are then printed to engineer vascularized patches and complex cellularized structures.
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