A team of scientists at Tel Aviv University, Israel, has 3D-printed the first vascularized engineered heart using a human patient’s own cells and biological materials.
“This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials,” said Tel Aviv University’s Professor Tal Dvir, senior author of the research.
“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.
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels.”
“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.”
At this stage, the 3D-printed heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart.
“But larger human hearts require the same technology,” Professor Dvir said.
For the research, a biopsy of an omental tissue was taken from patients. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated.
While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, the extracellular matrix, a 3D network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing ‘ink.’
After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.
“The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments,” Professor Dvir said.
“Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient’s own tissues.”
“Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.”
“We are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and teaching them to behave like hearts,” he said.
“We then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models.”
The findings appear in the journal Advanced Science.
Nadav Noor et al. 3D Printing of Personalized Thick and Perfusable Cardiac Patches and Hearts. Advanced Science, published online April 15, 2019; doi: 10.1002/advs.201900344