Published On: Mon, Apr 15th, 2019

Global breakthrough: Israeli researchers printed a living heart

Within a decade it will be possible to print to each patient the organ he needs - from tissues taken from his body. Prof. Dvir, lead author of the study: "A Method That Will Overcome the Need for Organ Donation"

 printing of a live human heart

Israeli scientists have created the world’s first living heart in a revolutionary new 3D printing process that combines human tissue taken from a patient’s own body.

The team that developed the heart estimate that within a decade it will be possible to print to each patient the organ he needs – from tissues taken from his body. Prof. Tal Dvir, lead author of the study: “A Method That Will Overcome the Need for Organ Donation.” There will no longer be a need to wait for transplants and drugs that prevent rejection of organs. Instead, the organs required for each patient will be fully customized from tissues taken from his body.

The study was carried out in the framework of a study presented today at a press conference, which was also published in the journal Advanced Science.

Researchers at Prof. Dvir’s laboratory at Tel Aviv University have succeeded in cracking a major challenge in modern medicine by using a 3D printer and tissues taken from a patient to print a living heart.

The groundbreaking experiment was carried out by Dr. Nadav Nur and Dr. Assaf Shapira in the laboratory of Prof. Tal Dvir in the Faculty of Life Sciences, in cooperation with the Department of Materials Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and the Purple Center for Biotechnology.

“Since the invention of 3D printing technology, researchers around the world have been trying to print, among other things, tissues and organs for transplantation,” says Prof. Dvir. “We have developed a new technology that provides a solution to a large part of the difficulties that have arisen along the way.”

There will be no need for organ donation
For the study, the researchers used fatty tissue taken from a patient and separated fat cells from the material that supports cells outside them (called collagen).

In an advanced process of genetic engineering, they have transformed the fat cells into stem cells, and stem cells have formed cells of heart muscle and cells that make blood vessels. At the same time, the researchers created a kind of “ink” for printing.

The researchers then mixed all the ingredients and fed the mixture to the printer, which was printed according to computer instructions. The printing was performed according to MRI and CT imaging of a human heart. The heart printed in this way consists of very young cells, which already contract and show the properties of cardiac cells.

Today, researchers are working on heart growth in a special environment until the cells become adult heart cells that interact and function at maximum efficiency. Next, printed hearts of this type will be implanted in animals to test their function.

“The method we developed allows us to print a heart of any size, and because the printed heart is produced from the tissues of the patient itself, the body will not reject it,” says Prof. Dvir. “Moreover, the method actually enables the printing of every organ required for transplant, “When a patient needs a transplant, the tissue will be taken out of his body, from which a suitable organ of its size and characteristics will be printed, which will be implanted in his body.”

Improvement and upgrading of organs

In recent years, the technology of organ printing has developed in 3D printers. Researchers from around the world have developed methods that combine cells and substances that interact with the body to form complex structures for transplantation.
In 2012, researchers at Cornell University in the United States used three-dimensional printing to produce the aortic valve. In the same year another group of researchers printed cartilage in a three-dimensional printer.

One of the fascinating possibilities examined in the field of 3D printing of living tissues is not only the replacement of dysfunctional organs but the improvement and upgrading of organs.

For example, a few years ago, researchers at Princeton University in the United States created a special ear by combining biological inks with an antenna coil attached to electrons that could absorb frequencies far wider than the average person’s.


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