Scientists print first 3D heart with patient's own cells and materials

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

With an aim to create functioning organs for transplant, scientists have been working on 3D-printed tissues for years.

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.

Heart transplantation is often the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure.

Transplant rejection, which occurs when the recipient's immune system targets transplanted tissue, is a common problem in heart transplant patients.

In this research, the cells for 3D printing were taken from a biopsy of fatty tissue.

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 3D-printed heart has cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers.

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The heart scientists printed couldn't be used in a human transplant operation.

Development of replacement organs is not something new, with the first human to receive an artificial heart occurring in 2014. The team says that larger human hearts will require the same technology. Their findings were published on 15 April in a study in Advanced Science. 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". But it's a groundbreaking step toward engineering customized organs that can be transplanted with less risk of rejection.

Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are now the only option available for patients in the worst cases. According to Dvir, using the patient's own tissue was key, so the risk of an implant being rejected would be eliminated, BBC news noted.

Researchers must now teach the printed hearts "to behave" like real ones. The cells of the 3D heart are able to contract, but are not yet able to pump, scientists told reporters.

The hearts can now contract, but still need to learn how to "behave like hearts", Dvir said, adding that he hopes to succeed and prove his method's efficacy and usefulness. They said that an exact version of the heart needed by a transplant recipient could be built.

The hope is that within "10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", Dvir told the Jerusalem Post.

On Monday, a team of Tel Aviv University researchers revealed the 3D printed heart that completely matches the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of a human patient.

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