Apr 17, 2019 03:48 PM EDT
3D Printing has been in use in the medical field for almost 30 years. It first proved useful in medicine in printing dental implants and some prosthetics that were personalized according to the needs of the patient. Later on, scientists and medical engineers all over the world applied the technology in more ways, such as 3D printed supports for laboratory grown organs from patients' cells and 3D printed skin to place over wounds. Just recently, a 3D printed heart was made for the first time. And although the engineers who worked on it said that it was the size close to that of a rabbit's, it is still a medical breakthrough, a major step towards the possible printing of a human heart. The team aims to find this technology useful in heart transplants in the future.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel have successfully 3D printed a heart from human tissue and vessels. The team used extracted fatty tissues from patients and reprogrammed its materials to be used as the "ink" for printing. As in any other kind of organ transplant, compatibility of the new organ-and in this case, the materials used in 3D printing-is a vital factor. "The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments," says Tal Dvir, lead researcher and professor from the university. "The biomaterial," he says, "should have similar biochemical, mechanical, and topographical properties of the tissues from the patient."
Previously, 3D printed tissues have been made without the blood vessels, which highlights this new research among the rest-this new 3D printed heart is complete with all the blood vessels, cells, ventricles, and chambers. However, functionality of the 3D printed organ is of course essential too, and for now, this is not fully established. Right now, the heart can contract, but not pump blood. They are planning to culture the 3D printed hearts in the laboratory and be programmed to function as an actual heart would.
Critical heart diseases and heart failures often require heart transplants as the only option for a patient and typically, the patient must wait for years before receiving a heart that is compatible with their system. Although the team acknowledges that they have a long way to go before their technology could be utilized in transplants, they remain optimistic about their research. "Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely," Dvir said.
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