Scientists in Israel presented a 3D printing of a heart with human tissue and vessels on Monday, calling it a first and "big medical breakthrough" that spurred on the possibilities for transplantation.
Although there is still a long way to go, the scientists hope to one day be able to make hearts that are suitable for human transplantation, as well as patches to regenerate defective hearts.
The heart produced by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv is about the size of a rabbit.
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"It was the first time anyone had successfully developed and printed a whole heart of cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and ventricles," said Tal Dvir, who led the project.
"In the past, humans have been able to print the structure of a heart with 3D printing, but not with cells or blood vessels," he said.
However, the scientists said that many challenges will persist before fully functional 3D printed hearts will be available for transplantation into patients.
Journalists were shown a 3D print of a cherry the size of a cherry at Tel Aviv University on Monday as researchers announced their findings, which were published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Science.
Researchers now need to teach the printed heart to behave like real hearts.
The cells can contract at the moment, but they can not pump yet. Then they plan to put them into animal models, hopefully in about a year, Dvir said.
"There may be organdprints in the best hospitals in the world in ten years, and these procedures are routinely done," he said.
But he said hospitals would probably start with simpler organs than hearts.
Production of ink
In its statement on the announcement of the research, the University of Tel Aviv described the study as a "major medical breakthrough". The patients were biopsied from the adipose tissue used to develop the "ink" for 3D printing.
First, patient-specific heart patches were created, followed by the entire heart, the statement says.
Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk that an implant will trigger an immune response and be rejected, Dvir said.
The remaining challenges also include how to stretch the cells to have enough tissue to create a human heart, he said.
Current 3D printers are also limited by the resolution. Another challenge will be to print all the small blood vessels.
3D printing has opened up opportunities and promises and controversies in many areas. The technology was developed to include 3D prints from homes to cannons.