Thanks to the wonder of 3D printing, scientists have managed to create a real, working heart — out of a patient’s own cells.
The heart measures about 2.5 centimeters long, which is around “the size of a rabbit’s heart,” Bloomberg reports. Although it’s certainly too small to function as a human heart, it was printed using an ink made from a patient’s biological materials, meaning it’s an exact match for the patient in question.
A process like this, which converts fatty tissue from the patient into stem cells and the so-called “bio ink,” could be used to print tissue to patch diseased hearts, or even replace a heart entirely. Because it’s made from each individual patient, the risk of an organ rejection is greatly lessened, said Tal Dvir, a professor at Tel Aviv University who directed the project.
This medical breakthrough was published on Monday in the journal Advanced Science, where it laid out the possibility of “personalized tissues and organs” being custom-printed for patients who need them, rather than those patients relying on organ donors.
While the tiny version of the heart took about three hours to print, it’s estimated that a human-sized one could take a full day, and would require many more cells from the patient. But it’s worth exploring whether these 3D-printed tissues could practically serve to replace a diseased heart with “something that works,” Dvir said.