Ha’Aretz reports that scientists from Tel Aviv University have printed the first 3-D heart. The heart has blood vessels, proteins, and other biological molecules. The lead scientists, Professor Tal Dvir, Dr. Assaf Shapira, and doctoral student Nadav Noor announced the breakthrough on Monday.
The heart is the size of a rabbit’s and it does not yet work. However, “printing” a human sized heart uses the same technology.
“We need to develop the printed heart further,” Dvir said. “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.”
This means that the scientists will now grow and mature the rabbit-sized heart and teach it to “behave” like a heart. The next stage will be to transplant the printed hearts into animals.
It will likely take years before the technology is advanced enough to create organs for transplants, but this is an important first step. Printed organs are already in use for training purposes at medical schools.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” Dvir said.
Organ printing involves three stages: the pre-print stage involves scanning the organ; stage two involves printing the organ; and stage three involves “maturing” the printed organ. The heart is particularly difficult to manufacture because of its complexity.
Dvir wants the technology to become mainstream in about ten years and hopes that the technology will make organ donation obsolete.
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