Parts of heart tissues have already been bio-printed, but this time a team of scientists has succeeded in 3D printing a vascularized heart using biological materials from the patient. This is a milestone that may very well set the way for creating custom made-to-order replacement organs for patients that are in need.
The team that has 3D printed the vascularized heart was led by Professor Tal Dvir at Israel’s Tel Aviv University. The process began with the team taking a fat sample from a volunteer. This fat was then separated into the cellular and non-cellular materials. The cells were eventually programmed to become pluripotent stem cells that are capable of differentiating into any type of body cell. The non-cellular material also known as the extracellular matrix that is mostly comprised of glycoproteins and collagen was transformed into a hydrogel.
In the next phase, the stem cells were mixed with batches of the gel and prompted to differentiate either into cardiac endothelial cells. The endothelial cells form the lining on the interior surface of blood vessels. This led to the creation of two sorts of ‘bio-ink’ that were then used with a 3D bioprinter. The extruded material was sent to an alginate/xanthan gum supporting medium. Biological tissue was built in layers with this approach. First, patches of cardiac tissue were made followed by making the complete heart.
The 3D printed vascularized heart is only the size of a rabbit’s heart; it features identical chambers and blood vessels as a full-size human heart does. According to Dvir, a full-size human heart can be created by making use of the same process. Since these organs are being made using the patient’s biological materials, the immune system shouldn’t reject them. More importantly, this enables the patient to get a heart right away rather than waiting for donors with the right hearts.
Dvir said, ‘We need to develop the printed heart further. The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method’s efficacy and usefulness … Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.’
A paper on the research has already been published in the journal Advanced Science.