Researchers from Tel Aviv University have created the world’s first 3D-printed heart made from human tissue and blood vessels.
The heart is only about the size of a cherry, and can contract like a muscle but is currently unable to pump blood. However, this breakthrough will allow scientists to begin experimenting with 3D-printed hearts in the coming year or so.
“’People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” said Professor Tal Dvir. He noted that this is “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.”
The scientists were able to print the heart using samples of fatty tissue harvested from a human patient.
The team believes that they can eventually construct the entire heart by multiplying the cells to make small patches of heart tissue. How to do so is still a challenge they face.
“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” Professor Dvir said.
The team says that experimenting printing and transplanting with less life-threatening organs would be much safer than jumping straight to the heart.
However, the researchers still plan to figure out how to make the 3D-printed heart beat and then transplant their prototypes into animals to test them out perhaps as soon as next year.
Image Credit: AFP