The first 3D-printed heart using human tissue
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The printing technology could be a major breakthrough for organ donations

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April 16, 2019 12:03 PM

A team of Israeli scientists say they have created the first 3D-printed heart using human tissue, which could lead to a major breakthrough in creating organs for people in need.

The scientists from Tel Aviv University say that the heart they created is about the size of a rabbit’s, according to their research published in the journal Advanced Science, but it could lead to 3D-printing hearts that would work for a human.

“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” Professor Tal Dvir, who led the research team, told The Jerusalem Post. “People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels.”

Printing the heart

Dvir and his team used biopsied fatty tissue from patients, and then separated the cellular materials and macromolecules to create a heart that was tailored to the individual patient.

“This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process, these materials serve as the bio-inks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3-D printing of complex tissue models,” Dvir explained.

Printing the heart
Amir Levy/Getty

Though their initial hearts are rabbit-sized, he said the same technology should work to create one that would fit a human. They plan to test the hearts in animals first, and if they’re successful they will move on to printing human-size hearts and trying them out.

There are several 3D-printed body parts in the works across the world, from ears to skin to muscles, but they have only been tested on animals so far. Dvir sees a future where 3D-printed hearts and organs are commonplace.

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“10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” he said.

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