Tel Aviv, 16 April 2019 (MIA/dpa) – Tel Aviv University on Monday presented a prototype of a miniature heart, which scientists say is the world’s first heart created with a 3D printer using human tissue.
“This is the first time anyone, anywhere, has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said Professor Tal Dvir, who led the research, which he presented at a press conference.
Until now, the university said, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissue without blood vessels.
The heart, which journalists were able to view during the approximately three-hour-long printing process, is roughly the size of a rabbit’s heart.
“But larger human hearts require the same technology,” Dvir said.
A paper on the study was published in the”Advanced Science” journal on Monday.
For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients, a press release from the university explained. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated.
The scientists reprogrammed the cells to become pluripotent stem cells and the a-cellural materials were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing “ink,” which was mixed with cells.
The cells were then differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to eventually create a patient-specific, immune-compatible heart.
Dvir stressed the importance of the hearts’ being made with a patient’s own cells and biological materials in order to eliminate the risk of implant rejection.
The next step for the researchers is to culture the printed hearts in a laboratory and “teach them” to behave like hearts.
The current state of the primitive heart can be compared to the heart of an embryo.
“The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together,” Dvir explained.
Once they have achieved that, the scientists plan to transplant the hearts into small animals, such as rabbits or rats.
Dvir hopes that, in about a decade, they will have perfected the process for human use.
“Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” Dvir said.
He noted a shortage of heart donors today and the need to develop new approaches.
The world Heath Organization said last year that ischaemic heart disease and stroke were the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016.