For the first time, researchers have succeeded in 3D printing a functional heart valve from collagen.

US scientists said Thursday they have managed to make functional parts of the heart collagen using a 3D printer. A breakthrough that could one day allow them to reproduce whole organs.

A functional collagen heart valve

Their technique, presented in the journal Science , manages to reproduce the complex biological structures of the human body. "What we have been able to show is that it is possible to 3D print a heart valve from collagen and that it works," Adam Feinberg, one of the co-authors, told AFP. authors of the article. Previous attempts to print these parts of the heart, known as extracellular matrices, had failed because of poor tissue fidelity and low resolution.

Researchers at the Israeli University of Tel Aviv in April presented a prototype of human heart printed in 3D from human tissue and with vessels, unable to pump. 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," the scientist added.