Medicine

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

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

The cells are capable of contracting, but they still need to be taught to work together in order to pump blood effectively, before being tested as a transplant material in animal models, according to research lead Tal Dvir, a professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology. These tissue samples were experimentally reprogrammed to become "pluripotent" or de-identified stem cells. For instance, a team of researchers at ETH Zurich created a 3D printed artificial heart back in 2017, but rather than using human tissue, those researchers used a flexible material. Tal Dvir of TAU, as the new developments look to battle heart disease which is the leading cause of death around the world. For patients with late stage heart failure, a heart transplant is the only solution. By alternating between the two different inks, the researchers were able to construct patches of heart tissue with blood vessels that are compatible with the patient's immune system. "Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future".

"This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials".

Scientists have previously built synthetic hearts and bio-engineered tissues using a patient's cells. Dvir says. "People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels".

Though promising, the team is quick to remind us that their hearts are not yet ready for human transplantation. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

In a demonstrative sense, ETH Zurich's silicone heart is a good example of how 3D printing can create accurate anatomical replicas, as is the work at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Arizona. "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".

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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 biocompatibility of engineered materials [was] crucial to eliminate the risks of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", said Dr. Dvir.

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

The heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University is about the size of a rabbit's.