Scientists have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of cardiovascular disease printing the world’s first 3D human heart.
Developed by scientists in Tel Aviv University, Israel, the heart is engineered using patient’s cells and biological materials which are modified to replicate the exact structure of a human heart.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” Tal Dvir, lead researcher for the study, said.
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels.”
To design the 3D human heart, the scientists collected a biopsy of fatty tissue from the patient; then they separated cellular material from noncellular material.
The researchers reprogrammed the cells of the fatty tissue to become pluripotent stem cells, while the noncellular material which contains components like glycoproteins and collagen was modified into “bionik”.
A mixture of the bioink and stem cells then differentiated into cardiac cells which the scientists used to create blood vessels and other cardiac patches.
Given the shortage of heart donors for patients with end-stage heart failure, Dvir said the use of patient-specific tissue is crucial to successfully engineer human tissues and organs.
“The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments,” said the lead researcher.
“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.”
Dvir, however, noted that more follow up studies is needed before the 3D human heart can be introduced into modern surgical practice.
“At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart. But larger human hearts require the same technology,” he added.
“The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method’s efficacy and usefulness.”
The researchers, Tal Dvir, Assaf Shapira and Nadav Moor, detailed their method in a recent paper published in the Advanced Science journal.