From a single adipose tissue, it was possible to create an entire heart and endothelial cells to feed the 3D printer and engineer a new, patient-tailored organ

A team of scientists at Tel Aviv University (TAU, in Israel) made a breakthrough. At the Institution’s molecular biology and biotechnology laboratory, they created the first full vascularized heart in the world, using a 3D printer. The work was published in the journal 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,” said Tal Dvir, professor at TAU and main study author. Previously, there had been 3D-printed hearts, but only with simple tissues, improper for replacement of the original organ.

How the 3D-printed heart is made

“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,” professor Dvir explained to Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

To achieve this result, researches collected a biopsy of the patients’ adipose tissue. The cells of this tissue have been reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, so they can be differentiated as cardiac muscle (heart) cells and endothelial (vases) cells. Therefore, different types of cells have been created to mix with bioinks and immune-compatible substances specific for the patient inside the 3D printer. 

From this process, an entire heart has been devised. The test was conducted with an organ  the size of a rabbit heart, but it could be replicated at human scale, the work authors said. Now, the next step is to train the hearts to behave as living organs and, as soon as this step is completed, the first transplants will be carried out – first in animals and then in humans.

“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future,” Dvir analyzed. “Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” he forecasts.

Heart diseases are the major cause of death worldwide

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global report, published every year, 70% of deaths result from chronic or non-infectious diseases, such as cardiovascular issues and cancer. 

According to registers, in 2017, 56 million of deaths were recorded in the world, with 17.7 million of them resulting from heart and vascular problems. And the problem is more deadly in underdeveloped nations: more than 250 deaths for each 100 thousand inhabitants, and 120 for each 100 thousand people in developed nations.

In Brazil, according to DataSUS information, plus official data from the Ministry of Health, 100 thousand deaths result from cerebrovascular diseases, 90 thousand from acute myocardial infarction, 47 thousand from high blood pressure diseases, 21 thousand from ischemic heart diseases and more than 70 thousand from other heart diseases altogether.

In many cases, the Israeli researchers’ study warns that the only alternative is transplant. Now, with a tailored heart, many lives can be saved.

Content published in July 12, 2019

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