Israeli scientists have unveiled their ability to create the world’s first “human heart” using 3D printing technology.
The team of scientists at Tel Aviv University
The hearts that the research team can create are small in size, as they are the size of rabbits’ hearts. “This is the first time anyone anywhere has been able to design and print a full heart full of cells, blood vessels, ventricles and heart chambers,” said Tal Devere, the world’s lead investigator and lead the medical team.
“In the past, scientists have been able to use this technique to synthesize the external heart structure only, without cells or blood vessels.”
But scientists said they still had many challenges to face before the fully functional hearts became available for cultivation within the patient’s bodies. Researchers now have to make the created hearts “fully mimic the work” of real hearts. Cells are now able to contract, but they do not have the ability to pump yet.
The next step will be the experience of cultivating these hearts in animal models, and the medical team leader hopes to do so within a year. “Perhaps, within 10 years, printers for members of the best hospitals around the world will be available, and such operations become routine,” he said. But he said hospitals would probably start with simpler members of the heart.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and transplantation is the only option available to patients with advanced disease conditions. But the main problem is that the number of donors is limited and many patients die while waiting for hearts to grow instead of their diseased hearts. In addition, if they have a heart, they face the possibility of being rejected by their bodies, the problem that researchers seek to overcome.
How did the synthesis process take place? The researchers worked on biopsy of the fatty tissues of patients and used them to develop “ink” or “living organic matter” for use in three-dimensional printing. The patient’s first cardiac tissue was created and then the heart was completely built.
The use of patient tissue is important to eliminate any possibility that tissue culture may raise the sensitivity of immune cells that lead to body rejection, said Tal Dafir.
“The biological compatibility of the constituents is important to get rid of the risk of transplant rejection, which puts the success of such treatments at risk.” He stressed that the challenges remain, notably how to expand the cells so that they have enough tissue to recreate the heart size of the human heart. The current three-dimensional printers are still limited. Another challenge is to find a way to synthesize all the small blood vessels and tiny capillaries in the heart.
3D printing technology is used in many industries, from homes to guns and guns.