Washington (AFP)

US scientists said Thursday they managed to make functional parts of the heart collagen using a 3D printer; a breakthrough that they believe could one day be able to reproduce whole organs.

Their technique, presented in the journal Science, manages to reproduce the complex biological structures of the human body.

"What we've been able to show is that it's possible to 3D print a heart valve from collagen and that it works," said Adam Feinberg, one of the co-authors of the article to AFP.

Previous attempts to print these parts of the heart, known as extracellular matrices, were unsuccessful due to poor tissue fidelity and low resolution.

Collagen is an ideal material since it is found in all tissues of the human body. The first printing attempts gave gelatinous results, but scientists at Carnegie Mellon University were able to make it solidify, using rapid pH changes.

"This is the very first version of a valve, so everything we design as a product will get better and better," said Feinberg.

This technique could one day help patients waiting for a heart transplant, but it will first have to be validated by tests on animals and possibly on humans.

"I think in the short term, it's probably about repairing an existing organ, such as a heart that has suffered a loss of function after a heart attack or liver damage," he added.

© 2019 AFP