Israeli scientists made history Monday by unveiling the world’s first 3D-printed human heart made with real human tissue.
Printing a 3D heart is the process by which scientists use a computer to join together biochemical material layer by layer to develop a heart that eventually can be transplanted into a human being.
The miniature heart was created by researchers at Tel Aviv University and they believe it is a “major medical breakthrough” for future heart transplant patients.
Tal Dvir, who led the project, told AFP it marked “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.”
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” he continued.
Transplant patients often wait years before finding a suitable donor and there are no guarantees their body will accept the donated heart. Many patients’ bodies reject the transplant, leaving them with life-threatening consequences.
The Israeli scientists seek to overcome this problem by taking a biopsy of fatty tissue from the patient to develop the “ink” for the printed heart.
According to a statement from Tel Aviv University, the scientists believe using the patient’s own body tissue to create their new heart will eliminate the risk of their body rejecting the transplant.
“The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments,” said Dvir.
The Israeli scientists announced their findings in the peer-reviewed journal called Advanced Science.
The heart is about the size of a cherry. The human cells used to create the heart are able to contract but cannot pump blood yet.
The research team’s next step is to teach the cells to pump like a healthy heart. Dvir said they hope to begin transplanting 3D printed hearts into animal models in a year.
The scientists will have to also overcome the challenge of learning how to expand the cells to create a full-sized human heart. Another challenge is figuring out how to print the tiny capillaries found in the heart.