While it's not clear a printer can produce hearts that are superior to human ones, "perhaps by printing patches we can improve or take out diseased areas in the heart and replace them with something that works" perfectly, he said.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University printed the tiny vascularized heart in about three hours using cells and biological material from a patient.
The Israeli team's findings were published on Monday in Advanced Science, a peer reviewed, open access journal.
The heart, about the size of a rabbit's, marked "the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers". Heart transplantation is now the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure.
He said that given a dire shortage of heart donors, the need to develop new approaches to regenerate a diseased heart was urgent.
This photo shows a 3D print of heart with human tissue. Dvir says. "People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels". "Instead, the needed organs will be printed, fully personalized for every patient".
Research for the study was conducted jointly by Prof.
The heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University is about the size of a rabbit's. Dvir. "But larger human hearts require the same technology". A biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients that was used in the development of the "ink" for the 3D print. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. The cells were then "reprogrammed" to become stem cells, which turned into heart cells.
The tiny organ, now only the size of a cherry, was engineered from the tissue of patients which was use to create a bio-ink.
Using the patient's own tissue is important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected, Dvir said.
The personalized, 3D-printed heart at TAU is sized for a rabbit but the researchers are confident the results would be replicable for human trials using the same technology and process, once they can overcome some technical challenges: Current generation 3D printers are limited in resolution so printing all of the critical, finer blood vessels is yet to be overcome.
"The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can now contract, but we need them to work together".