3D Printer: Israeli researchers print heart from human tissue
Researchers hope to produce working human organs with the 3D printer. For the first time it should have worked to print a heart with blood vessels and cells.
Israeli researchers have created a human tissue heart with a 3D printer. The prototype is about the size of a cherry. The heart is made up of tissues and blood vessels and has chambers, said biologist Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University.
It is comparable to the heart of a human fetus, but its cells can not yet contract synchronously. The researchers presented their development in the journal Advanced Science (Dvir et al., 2019).
"We biopsy adipose tissue from a patient," Dvir, who led the study, explained the process. Then cellular and non-cellular components would be separated. "The fat cells are reprogrammed into stem cells, which in turn differentiate into heart cells, endothelial cells and others."
The extracellular material, such as structural proteins, was processed into hydrogels, which were then mixed with the different cell types. From these so-called organic inks, the 3D printer then generated the heart.
Use in humans will take many years
"The heart is fully compatible with the patient because it is made from its own tissue, and therefore will not trigger an immune backlash," said Dvir. It was the first time that a whole heart was printed with cell tissue and blood vessels. In similar experiments hitherto only synthetic substances or other natural tissue have been used.
With the project, the researchers wanted to test what is possible with the 3D printing process. The next step is to mature the prototype in a special bioreactor. Within a year, such hearts should then be tested in animal experiments, in rabbits or rats. Whether in the end, treatment methods for humans could come out, is still unclear. Dvir said that it would take "many more years" for possible clinical use in humans.
The researchers wrote in Advanced Science, the 3D printing technologies are a "promising approach" to produce functioning human organs. But there are still "several difficulties" to overcome.