Israeli researchers print first 3D heart using patient’s own cells

Henrietta Brewer
April 16, 2019

The biomedically engineered heart was created using a 3D printer by researchers at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel.

With that said, while the heart is now too small for a human as it's more appropriately sized for a rabbit, the process used to create it shows a potential for one day being able to 3D print patches and maybe full transplants. The team then made the extracellular matrix - made up of collagen and glycoproteins - into a hydrogel used as the printing "ink".

The Tel Aviv team extracted fatty tissue from patients and used this as the "ink" for the 3D printing, a blueprint with which to create tissue models. "Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-print thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient". Professor Tal Dvir is pictured holding the heart, main. "Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future".

Dvir, in a statement, said scientists had 3D-printed the structure of the heart in the past, but that "this is the first time that a whole heart, with blood vessels and cells is printed".


But CT scans can't provide images of the smaller blood vessels crisscrossing heart tissue-there, in order to make sure the entire patch receives enough oxygen, mathematical models were used to create a more-complete vasculature, calculated based on the laws of oxygen consumption and equations for optimal distribution.

Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.

"We need to develop the printed heart further", he concludes.

The cells need to mature for another month or so and then should be able to beat and contract, Dvir said. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".


Though it is still in the early stages of development, this invention represents a breakthrough for transplant medicine, as it may impact the lives of thousands of patients who await heart transplants for end-stage heart failure each year. "Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method's efficacy and usefulness", said Prof.

However, the ultimate goal is to have "organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely" within the next 10 years, Dvir says.

This article has been republished from materials provided by Tel Aviv University American Friends.


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