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Tiny 3D-printed heart fabricated complete with blood vessels

In a new medical breakthrough, Israeli scientists have successfully 3D printed a tiny heart complete with functioning blood vessels and human tissue. The heart is seen as step forward in developing artificial organs for transplant. With diseased hearts in particular, heart transplantation is the only treatment for patients with end‐stage heart failure. This fact is complicated not only by the risks involved with surgery, and the risk of organ rejection, but also the shortage of suitable organs for transplant.

The approach taken by the researchers from Tel Aviv University was within the field of cardiac tissue engineering, where there is growing interest with this alternative approach which involves integrating cardiac cells and 3D biomaterials.

READ MORE: Lab-grown blood vessels developed to aid dialysis

The biological techniques are also orientated towards the patient, in terms of better addressing the organ to be replaced and lowering the chance of rejection. Through this the researchers showed, in a proof-of-concept study, that they could 3D‐print thick, vascularized, and perfusable cardiac patches to serve as functioning hearts. The first heart produced is a tiny organ, only the size of a cherry (equivalent to the size of a rabbit’s heart).

The developmental hearts are theoretically compatible with the immunological, cellular, biochemical, and anatomical properties of the patient. The success paves the way for further research, with the aim of producing larger hearts that will be tested to see if they are suitable for human transplantation. There is more work to do first, however; while the cells of the heart are currently able to contract, they do not yet have the ability to pump.

Speaking with The Daily Telegraph, Professor Tal Dvir who led the project notes: “Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.”

The research has been published in the journal Advanced Sciences, with the peer reviewed paper titled “3D Printing of Personalized Thick and Perfusable Cardiac Patches and Hearts.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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