Researchers build 3D-printed heart out of patient's donor cells

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

It marked "the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers", said Tal Dvir, who led the project.

In what could easily be confused for a story of science fiction, a team of scientists have just revealed that they've printed the world's first 3D heart using "ink" made of human tissue. 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 world's first "printed heart" was made with actual human biological material, although only about the size of a rabbit's heart, making it too small for a human, researchers said in the Advanced Science report.

A human-sized heart might take a whole day to print and would require billions of cells, compared to the millions used to print these mini-hearts, Dvir said.

This latest invention represents a major turning point for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), as heart transplantation is the only definitive treatment for patients in the end-stages of the disease. That allowed researchers to create complex tissue models including cardiac patches and eventually an entire heart.

A 3D printer creates what Israeli scientist Professor Tal Dvir says is the world's first 3D-printed vascularized engineered heart, in a laboratory at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 15, 2019.

He added that the heart is made from human cells, and "patient-specific biological materials".

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As stated in the abstract of the study, "These results demonstrate the potential of the approach for engineering personalized tissues and organs, or for drug screening in an appropriate anatomical structure and patient‐specific biochemical microenvironment".

3D printed construction of a miniature heart model.

The paper also notes that while 3D printing is considered a promising approach for engineering whole organs, several challenges still remain. The cells are now able to contract, but do not yet have the ability to pump.

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Prof.

This article has been republished from materials provided by Tel Aviv University American Friends.

Until now, the university said, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissue without blood vessels. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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