Israeli researchers have printed a 3D heart using a patient’s own cells, something they say could be used to patch diseased hearts — and possibly, full transplants.
The heart the Tel Aviv University team printed in about three hours is too small for humans — about 2.5 centimetres, or the size of a rabbit’s heart. But it’s the first to be printed with all blood vessels, ventricles and chambers, using an ink made from the patient’s own biological materials.
“It’s completely biocompatible and matches the patient,” reducing the chances of rejection inside the body, said Tal Dvir, the professor who directed the project.
Researchers took fatty tissue from a patient, then separated it into cellular and noncellular components. The cells were then “reprogrammed” to become stem cells, which turned into heart cells. The noncellular materials were turned into a gel that served as the bio-ink for printing, Dvir explained.
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. The breakthrough was reported Monday in a paper in Advanced Science.
“Patients will no longer have to wait for transplants or take medications to prevent their rejection,” the press release said. “Instead, the needed organs will be printed, fully personalized for every patient.”
In a room off a warren of laboratories, a massive 3D printer sent a thin stream of “bio-ink” into a small square container. Inside sat a small heart the size and colour of several pencil erasers.
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