Published: Wed, April 17, 2019
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Scientists Unveil World's First Human Heart 3D-Printed From Patients' Own Cells

Scientists Unveil World's First Human Heart 3D-Printed From Patients' Own Cells

The first 3D printed heart with human tissue and vessels was unveiled by scientists who hailed it as a "major medical breakthrough" which could pave the way for transplants without donors.

The engineered heart is about the size of a rabbit's heart.

A 3-D print of heart with human tissue.

The heart the Tel Aviv University team printed in about three hours is too small for humans - about 2.5 centimetres, or the size of a rabbit's heart.

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"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers", said Prof.

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

That means there's an urgent need to develop new ways to regenerate a diseased heart, according to the researchers. It seems that 3D printed hearts could be the forthcoming solution. The study was published in the journal Advanced Science.

Even though this might be challenging, the 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels is a start for advancing human heart transplants and cardiovascular patient treatment. After mixing with the hydrogel, the cells efficiently differentiated into cardiac or endothelial cells to create cardiac patches with blood vessels leading to an entire heart. The stem cells were then used to create different kinds of cells for the printed heart, according to Atala. The printer was also loaded with CT or MRI scans from the patient. Using the patient's materials means the chance of organ rejection by the body is slim to none.

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The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, Prof.

One of the risks with heart transplants, or any kind of organ transplant, is that the host will reject the donated part.

"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 next step, they said, is to teach the hearts to organize and interact with each other and achieve pumping ability. When the integration with the patient is complete the synthetic bio-scaffolding would begin a disintegration process, which would then leave space for the living organ to fully accommodate itself in its new home.

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"The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can now contract, but we need them to work together", lead scientist Tal Dvir told Haaretz. We're still many, many years away from this being used for humans, though.

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