Israeli Scientists Unveil the First 3D Printed Heart With Human Tissue

Researchers at Tel Aviv University say their ‘major medical breakthrough’ will advance possibilities for transplants

Apr 17, 2019

3D-printing has been around for a while now, and almost no day passes without some new development being announced. Scientists in Israel have now made a huge leap forward and just unveiled a 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels. calling it a first and a “major medical breakthrough” that advances possibilities for transplants.

While it is definitely not yet ready to be used as a transplant, scientists call it a first and a “major medical breakthrough” that will one day let them produce hearts suitable for transplant into humans.

The rabbit-sized heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University marks “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.

“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” he told AFP.

A lot of work still lies ahead of the scientists, before fully working 3D printed hearts can become available for transplant into patients.

They must now teach the printed hearts “to behave” like real ones. While the cells are currently able to contract, they cannot yet pump.

“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” Dvir said.

In its statement announcing the research, Tel Aviv University called it a “major medical breakthrough.

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are currently the only option available for patients in the worst cases.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough donors for all patients in need of a new heart, and even if they do get one, there is always the risk of the body rejecting the transplant, which is essentially a foreign object inside the body.

The researchers were acutely aware of this problem and planned ahead accordingly. In order to develop the "ink" for their 3D print, they took fatty tissue from patients.

Using the patient’s own tissue is crucial to eliminate the risk of an implant causing an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.

“The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments,” said Dvir.

There are certainly still some challenges ahead of the researchers, but with this important first out of the way, 3D printed organs could become a common reality in the near future and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

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