Scientists print first 3D heart using a patient’s own cells

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

Dr. Assaf Shpira looks at a 3D print of heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have successfully printed the world's first 3D heart using a patient's own cells and biological materials to "completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical, and anatomical properties of the patient".

A human-sized heart might take a whole day to print and would require billions of cells, compared to the millions used to print these mini-hearts, Dvir said.

The staggering development prompted Israel's Foreign Ministry to react, citing it as yet another exceptional example of Israeli innovation.

The first for TAU's research then, is in the combination of a 3D anatomical heart model and the human stem cell-laden bioinks used to make it. The cells are now able to contract, but do not yet have the ability to pump.

The research team revealed in the findings, published in the journal Advanced Science, that they took a biopsy of fatty tissue from patients, reprogramming their cells and processing extracellular molecules into a personalised hydrogel. As it continues to be redesigned to better reflect human anatomy, scientists are intrigued by the potential for 3D heart printing to become a widespread, life-saving technique in medical centers around the world.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA and Israel, and heart transplants are often only afforded to those with end-stage heart failure, but the lengthy wait (up to six months) for a suitable donor can often prove fatal.

They then mixed the cells and the hydrogel to create so-called "bio-inks" for cardiac patches, which were followed by an entire heart.

He said that given a dire shortage of heart donors, the need to develop new approaches to regenerate a diseased heart was urgent.

"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", Dvir said. Dvir says. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues".

After "training" the hearts to efficiently pump, the team hopes to transplant them into animals for further testing.

Previously, only simple tissues - without the blood vessels they need to live and function - had been printed, according to a press release from the university. Inside sat a small heart the size and colour of several pencil erasers.

"Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", said Prof. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.