In a major medical breakthrough today, scientists over at Tel Aviv University has printed the first 3D heart using a patient’s cells and biological materials. You heard that right. It is totally a 3D-printed heart, though not quite the 3D printing you have come to known (like obviously). Described as the world’s first 3D vascularized engineered heart, the 3D heart is a complete organ with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. Imagine that! All the works that made a heart! Now, if that isn’t a big stride forward in regenerative medicine.
Prior to this, there had only been success in printing only simple tissues, i.e. the structure, but without blood vessels. The department responsible for this medical breakthrough is Tel Aviv University’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. Here’s the gist of how it was done:
“For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, the extracellular matrix (ECM), a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing “ink.”… After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.”
It is an important development and a bright future for engineered personalized tissue and organ replacement, and perhaps even more importantly, since the heart was printed using a patient’s biological materials, it should ideally possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties off the patient’s own tissue, which this research has proven to be the case, and therefore, it should eliminate the risk of implant rejection.
But this isn’t the be all and end all. The thing is, the 3D heart is only about the size of a rabbit’s heart. Now, I don’t pretend to know how big a rabbit’s heart is, but it don’t take a genius to know it is very tiny. Notwithstanding the size, it is a major milestone and a breakthrough in regenerative medicine. Also, a successful print is just the beginning. The scientists will need to culture the printed heart and “teach them to behave” like, you know, hearts.
This means that the hearts will need to develop the ability to pump which at this point, they only can contract and not expand. The institute plans to eventually translate the 3D-printed heart to animal models. Wait. By “animal models,” do they mean real animals? With this development established, TAU believe that in around 10 years time, organ printers and the procedures could be a norm in hospitals around the world. You can learn more on this medical breakthrough by reading the research papers by the TAU team published on Advanced Science.