The future is now for medical technology, after a team of Israeli scientists developed the world’s first 3D-printed heart using a patient’s cells.
A group from Tel Aviv University recently published its findings in the Advanced Science journal, commenting that the breakthrough shows the potential to create “cardiac patches that fully match the anatomical structure”.
The experiment took isolated cells from a patient tissue sample and “reprogrammed” them into cardiac and vascular cells.
Leader of the project, Tal Dvir, said the breakthrough marked the first occasion a 3D-printed heart of this standard had been created.
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” he said.
“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.”
While the achievement is enormous in its scientific significance, in reality, the heart in question is about the size of a rabbit’s heart and not able to be used by a human.
Expanding the cells so that there is enough tissue to create a human-sized heart remains a challenge, said Dvir.
Although the heart has now been created, it still needs to be taught how to pump blood through vessels.
There are then plans to transplant the heart into an animal model in the future to continue the experiment.
The research highlights the importance of using “autologous materials” – meaning samples taken from the same individual – to avoid the 3D-printed heart being rejected by the body’s immune system.
“The biomaterial should possess biochemical, mechanical, and topographical properties similar to those of native tissues,” the research states.
“Decellularised tissue‐based scaffolds from different sources meet most of these requirements.”
Between 50 to 80% of people who receive a heart transplant experience some sort of rejection episode.