Researchers from Tel Aviv University have made a significant breakthrough in medicine. The team has successfully 3D printed the world’s first 3D vascularized heart using the patient’s cells and biological materials. Using the patient’s materials means the chance of organ rejection by the body is slim to none.
Until the researchers made this breakthrough, scientists had only succeeded in printing simple tissues without blood vessels. The researchers from Tel Aviv University say that this is the first time that anyone anywhere has successfully engineering and printed an entire heart with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers.
This is an import breakthrough as heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the US. Right now the only solution to heart disease for some is a heart transplant, and there are a limited number of donors, and sometimes the body of the recipient rejects the transplants. This has led to a major push in medical research to develop methods of replacing damaged hearts that don’t rely on donated organs and reduce the chance of rejection of the donated organ by the body.
The team isn’t ready to print a human-sized heart at this time; the heart they have printed is the size of a rabbit’s heart. The team says that larger human hearts will require the same technology. In this research, the cells for 3D printing were taken from a biopsy of fatty tissue. The team then separated the cellular and a-cellular material and reprogrammed all the cells to become pluripotent stem cells.
A 3D network of extracellular macromolecules including collagen and glycoproteins was processed into a hydrogel that served as the printing “ink.” 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 team thinks that in a decade there could be organ printers in hospitals around the world.