Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University say they have successfully printed a fully equipped heart made up of blood and muscles using a 3D-printer.
The scientists allege that the small heart is the world’s first engineered vascular heart ever made with a 3D-printer, according to CBS News. The heart is not ready for use in a human, said Dr. Max Gomez of CBS New York, noting that a working heart has many critical elements that have not yet been developed by the printer.
The heart is small and made up of blood vessels, heart cells and small supporting structures. The cells used in the printing were sourced from a single human donor, according to CBS. “That’s important because it prevents the possibility of rejection,” said Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The researchers used cells from donor fat tissue to create stem cells. The stem cells were then used to create different kinds of cells for the printed heart, according to Atala.
While the 3D-printed heart is a major breakthrough, the heart is not a functioning organ because it lacks pump function. “A functioning heart has to contract and be connected to vessels to be functioning,” Atala said.
The Israeli researchers are working on a cardiac patch intended to help patients recover from cardiac damage sustained by heart attacks. The patch is essentially a piece of heart tissue that can contract and integrate itself into the heart, according to CBS. The patch is simpler and currently more effective than any attempts to build and integrate a whole heart into a patient.
3D-printers have been used, however, to print full human ears, windpipes, bladders and blood vessels among other organs. Some of these organs have been implanted into patients, according to Dr. Atala.
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