For the first time in history, Israeli scientists were successful in printing a whole, living heart using a 3D printer together with human tissue taken from a patient.
The successful experiment, conducted in the laboratory of Professor Tal Dvir at Tel Aviv University and revealed on Monday, solves a major challenge of modern medicine and paves the way to the healing of the future in which patients will no longer have to wait for transplants or take medications to prevent their rejection and completely waive the need for organ donations.
Tal expressed his hope that the needed organs will be printed, fully personalized for every patient, in the coming decade.
Put simply, the process entails the collecting of a biopsy of fatty tissue is taken from patients. The cells are reprogrammed to become stem cells and then differentiated to cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells.
The two cell types are separately combined with hydrogels to form bio-inks for the cardiac tissue and blood vessels. The 3D printing scheme of the heart is fit to the anatomy of a patient, and the printer produces a heart.
Overall, the results demonstrate the ability to use the patient’s own cells and materials in 3D printing of fully personalized cardiac patches that closely fit the patient’s biochemical and cellular properties, as well as for the anatomy of the patient.
Since the bio-inks originated from the same patient, the engineered patches will not provoke an immune response after transplantation, eliminating the need for immunosuppression treatment.
The researchers are now working on growing the heart in a special environment known as a bio-reactor until the cells become adult heart cells that communicate and work at maximum efficiency. They hope that in the coming year, printed hearts of this type will be implanted in animals to test their functioning.
The printed hearts are currently small and still require research and development until they are ready for use by patients.
This process essentially enables the printing of any required limb and can develop into futuristic technologies that will enable a patient to receive a transplant grown from his own tissue.
Israeli Minister of Science Ofir Akunis lauded the study as “an unprecedented achievement that will affect all of humanity.”