The heart is not ready for use in a human, said Dr. Max Gomez of CBS New York, noting that a working heart has many critical elements that have not yet been developed by the printer. A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel has brought that goal closer to a reality. This is believed to be the first time an entire heart with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers has been reproduced in this way.
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The heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University is about the size of a rabbit's.
A 3-D print of heart with human tissue.
The process consists of three stages: the target organ is scanned via MRI, it is then printed using patient-specific bioinks, "substances made of sugars and proteins", made of their own cells after which the organ is then matured it in a suitable laboratory or host environment.
Current 3D printers are also limited by the size of their resolution and another challenge will be figuring out how to print all small blood vessels. Professor Tal Dvir is pictured holding the heart, main. He worked with Prof.
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The Israeli team's findings were published on Monday in Advanced Science, a peer reviewed, open access journal. In 2013, heart disease accounted for about 16% of the total number of deaths in Israel, according to the Health Ministry. For patients who find themselves with end-stage heart failure, a transplant is the only option. We're still many, many years away from this being used for humans, though.
A 3D image displays a computerised visualization of a human heart. The study said that this allowed the "ink" to print out various cardiac patches or complex tissues structures that can be formed together to create a 3D heart.
The scientists allege that the small heart is the world's first engineered vascular heart ever made with a 3D printer, according to CBS News. "Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future", he said. The team says that larger human hearts will require the same technology.
In order to print the heart, the researchers started by taking fatty tissue from a patient. The extracellular matrix (a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins) were processed into a personalised hydrogel.
The research team said the next step will be to train the printed heart to act like an organic human heart by transplanting them into animals and eventually, humans.
Immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels were printed, and then an entire heart, Dvir said, adding that the use of "native", patient-specific materials was crucial to engineering tissues and organs successfully.