For the first time in medical history, researchers used biological cells from the human body to print a working 3D heart. The most recent advancement in the field of regenerative medicine comes from an Israeli team that was able to “print” the world’s first vascularized synthetic heart utilizing human cells and biological materials as the “bioink” for the 3D printer.
A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel has revealed the first three-dimensional vascularized synthetic heart in an official research report published in the Advanced Science magazine. Even though medical researchers have printed rudimentary tissues without blood vessels, TAU researchers were able to build a heart complete with cells, blood vessels, and other functional features.
This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully created and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood veins, ventricles, and chambers, said Professor Tal Dvir, the head of the research and a professor at TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology.
When it comes to “printing” the heart, it was done by extracting fatty tissues from patients and separating their cellular and a-cellular components. The retrieved cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, which can differentiate into some cell types to build a functional heart. Non-cellular materials, such as glycoproteins and collagen, were transformed into “bioink” for printers. The researchers were able to print complicated tissues such as cardiac patches, which contributed to the fabrication of an artificial human heart, by combining these materials.
While this is an important and noteworthy accomplishment, you should be aware that there is still much more to be accomplished. This heart, for example, is extremely little, and researchers must continue to nurture the “printed” hearts in the lab, “training them to behave” like human hearts. They will also evaluate the capabilities of the 3D-printed hearts by implanting them into animal models.
Prof. Dvir believes that in the next decade, the best institutions throughout the world will have organ printers to support transplants without organ donors. Patients will no longer have to rely on donors if any of their internal organs fail to work.