Curing heart disease can be tricky because in some cases, the only way for a person to survive would be to get a heart transplant. Unfortunately, finding a suitable donor is difficult, not to mention there is a waiting list as well, and there are also complications with regards to the body accepting the new organ.
However, there is some good news on that front because thanks to researchers at the Tel Aviv University, they have managed to 3D print a heart which paves the way for the future in combating heart disease. The 3D printed heart was also made using the patient’s own cells, meaning that it is 100% compatible and will not be rejected by the patient’s body.
This was done by taking the fatty tissue from a patient, separating the cellular and non-cellular components, and then “reprogrammed” to become stem cells which later turned into heart cells. According to the study’s press release, “Patients will no longer have to wait for transplants or take medications to prevent their rejection. Instead, the needed organs will be printed, fully personalized for every patient.”
Before you get too excited, know that at the moment this is still very early in development. The researchers have only managed to 3D print a heart that measures 2.5 centimeters, making it too small to be used by humans. It is expected that for a full-sized human heart, it would require billions of cells and could potentially take an entire day to print, but that doesn’t mean that the project doesn’t have potential.
According to Tal Dvir, the professor who directed the project, he suggests that perhaps this process could be used to print patches of the heart and just replace the diseased areas.