Yes, you read it right; for the first time ever, on 15th of April 20191, Israeli researchers of Tel Aviv University have printed a 3D heart, engineered entirely by human tissues. Up until this date, technological advancements had only led scientists to printing of simple tissues, with no blood vessels, making this newly engineered vascularized 3D cardiac patch to be one of its own kind as it beats with its own blood vessels. This contractile cardiac patch is a major breakthrough, opening new doors to organ donation in the foreseeable future.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,”2 said Prof. Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, who was the lead researcher for the study.
Is this breakthrough a ray of hope for future?
The answer lies in its cultivation as it utterly matches all the properties of the patient: immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical, making it a personalized innovation.
This was revealed by Prof. Dvir when he said “This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process these materials serve as the bioinks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models”
It was formed by extracting the patient’s fat tissue (omentum), followed by separation of cellular and extra cellular components, the former is then reprogrammed to form stem cells; further differentiated into cardiac cells (cardiomyocytes) and endothelial cells, and the latter forms the hydrogel. Mixing the hydrogel separately with the cardiac and endothelial cells ultimately results in a personalized bioink, used to print the personalized cardiac patch.3
It is an undeniable fact that cardiac diseases are now a leading cause of death in most parts of the world. With heart transplantation being the only known cure of end stage heart failure, there is a disproportionate ratio of donor hearts to failing hearts giving rise to a dire need of such technologically cultivated organ replacement options.
Though, the engineered cardiac patch is of a rodent size yet, but it has laid the first stone for the researchers to develop further using the same technology, as explained by Prof Dvir “At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart, but larger human hearts require the same technology,” he further adds “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.” He concludes by saying: “Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.”4
1 (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/advs.201900344
2 (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/advs.201900344
TEL AVIV University American friends. (2019, April monday, 15th). Retrieved from www.aftau.org/weblog-medicine–health?&storyid4704=2446&ncs4704=3
3 (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/advs.201900344
4 (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/afot-tau041519.php