What is 3D printing? 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a family of processes that produces objects by adding material in layers that correspond to successive cross-sections of a 3D model. Plastics and metal alloys are the most commonly used materials for 3D printing. Since the 3D printing has been becoming more popular because of a wallet-friendly price, people can use it to create personalized nicknacks.
But it can work on nearly anything—from nicknacks to living tissue. In a major medical breakthrough, Tel Aviv University researchers have "printed" the world's first 3D vascularised engineered heart using a patient's own cells and biological materials. Their findings were published on April 15 in a study in Advanced Science.
"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers," says Prof. Tal Dvir, who led the research for the study.
For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, the extracellular matrix (ECM), a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing "ink."
After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.
According to Prof. Dvir, the use of "native" patient-specific materials is crucial to successfully engineering tissues and organs.
"The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments," Prof. Dvir says. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues. Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient."
The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, Prof. Dvir says. They then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models.
"Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely."
Original title：Scientists print first 3D heart using patient's biological materials