Israeli researchers have printed the world’s first 3D heart from human tissue.
The miniature organ, about the size of a rabbit’s heart, took about three hours to print.
Details of the groundbreaking achievement — led by Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology —were presented during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday morning.
Professor Dvir said: “This is 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 added: “The method we have developed will allow us in the future to print a heart of any size required from the human tissue of patients themselves, meaning that the body will not reject it.
“In fact, this method allows us to print any organ that is required for a transplant and we believe that this method opens the door to future technologies, which will make the need for organ donors completely unnecessary.
“When a patient needs a transplant, tissue will be taken from him or her and from this the required organ will be printed and transplanted into their body.”
During the research, scientists took fatty tissues from patients, and separated the cellular and non-cellular materials. These cells were then mixed with a customized printing material made from extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins and adapted to the patient’s biology.
“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future,” Prof Dvir said.
He estimated that such heart and other transplants could be routine in the next 10 years or so, but stressed much work still needed to be done.
“The cells still need to form a pumping ability,” he said.
The next step for Prof Dvir’s team is to begin developing hearts for transplanting into laboratory rats and rabbits, before moving onto human clinical trials.
Prof Dvir worked with Assaf Shapira of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences and doctoral student Nadav Moor on this project.
Details about the research have been published in the periodical Advanced Science.