Scientists from Tel Aviv University have printed the world’s first 3D-heart of human tissue and blood vessels. Although the body is no larger than a cherry and cannot pump blood, experts believe that its creation is a major medical breakthrough, although it’s still far from creating the first hearts suitable for transplantation. Specialists will have to improve the organ so that it can pump blood, and doctors hope to begin testing this year.Previously, scientists have printed 3D-structure of the heart, but without the use of human cells or blood vessels. Israeli specialists for the first time managed to print the whole heart from human cells taken from a living patient with a biopsy. This means that in the future it can be made from the patient’s own cells, which reduces the risk of rejection. An organ the size of a rabbit’s heart has blood vessels, ventricles and chambers and can contract like a muscle, but not completely, like a real heart does. According to doctors, the expansion of a sample of cells, which could be used to create a full-fledged human heart, still remains a problem, since a very high resolution printer is required to print the smallest blood vessels.
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3D printing of hearts in the future can give hope for a normal life for patients whose organs are damaged by diseases or injuries. “Maybe in 10 years printers for printing organs, including hearts, will appear in the best hospitals of the world, and these procedures will be carried out regularly,” says Professor Tel Dvir. Nevertheless, it is noted that it is safer to begin this practice with the transplantation of less important organs than the heart. For example, the spleen, appendix, gallbladder, kidney, and even the lung can be removed without danger to life, so these organs can be prime candidates for transplant tests.
The next stage in the work of the Israeli team of scientists will be an attempt to teach 3D-printed hearts to beat like living beats. The researchers then try to transplant the organs grown in the lab to animals.