Breaking news: researchers build a 3D-printed heart

Today, a breaking news was announced. Researchers from Tel Aviv University “printed” a 3D heart. It’s size is of 2.5 cm, but it contains its own cells and vascular structures that allow it to contract as if it was beating. The heart was built from cells taken with a biopsy from a patient’s fatty tissue. The cells were separated from other materials and they were then programmed into pluripotent stem cells. The materials were processed into a hydrogel, which was mixed with the stem cells so they could differentiate into the cardiac cells. A lot of CT scans were taken so researchers could have an idea of the structure and distribution of blood vessels, while other structures were estimated through mathematical models. This is a great finding, hoping that patients who require organ transplants in the future, may have their own organs engineered without the risk of rejection. This is because the patient’s immune system wouldn’t recognize the organ as foreign because the organs are built from the patient’s own cells.

There are several medical conditions that may lead a person to require a heart transplant. Some of them may be, for example, dilated cardiomyopathies, severe coronary artery disease, or birth defects. The waiting times for heart transplants are usually very long, often more than six months. This is because of the availability and factors that determine if there is a match between the donor and the patient. For instance, the compatibility depending on blood type and the size of the heart. Definitely engineering the patient’s own heart would help if there are no other options of donation available.