Israeli scientists create first-ever living heart ‘printed’ from human tissue

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers", Dvir said.

The 3D-printing technology is already being used to construct entire houses in just 24 hours, but using the tech to create a human heart was proving hard. Tal Dvir of TAU's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, who led the research for the study.

This latest invention represents a major turning point for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), as heart transplantation is the only definitive treatment for patients in the end-stages of the disease.

First, patient-specific cardiac patches were created followed by the entire heart, the statement said.

"Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future", said Dr. Dvir.

The Tel Aviv team extracted fatty tissue from patients and used this as the "ink" for the 3D printing, a blueprint with which to create tissue models. The stem cells were then exposed to chemicals or "bioinks" that helped to retrain them to become either heart or blood vessel cells.

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.

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He added that the heart is made from human cells, and "patient-specific biological materials". "In fact, this method allows us to print any organ that is required for a transplant and we believe that this method opens the door to future technologies, which will make the need for organ donors completely unnecessary".

"We need to develop the printed heart further", he concludes.

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.

The cells need to mature for another month or so and then should be able to beat and contract, Dvir said.

Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.

"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. The paper is co-authored by Nadav Noor, Assaf Shapira, Reuven Edri, Idan Gal, Lior Wertheim and Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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