The organ is about the size of a cherry and can’t pump blood – but experts are still calling it a ‘major medical breakthrough’, reports Metro UK.
Tal Dvir, from Tel Aviv University in Isreal led the project and said how it was made with human cells. ‘People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,’ he explained.
He said this is the first time ‘anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.’
The organ, which is roughly the size of a rabbit’s heart, can contract – but it can’t go through the full pumping motion. The research team used cells multiplied from a sample of human fatty tissue to create the heart.
In theory, the breakthrough could be used to print actual full-size human hearts that can be used in transplants. But an extremely high resolution printer would be needed to print the smallest blood vessels. ‘Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,’ said Professor Dvir.
However, he points out that scientists would probably want to start with less vital organs like the spleen, appendix or kidney – all of which can be removed without killing the patient.
The Israeli team says the next stage of its research is to attempt to get the 3D-printed heart to pump like a regular one. They will then attempt to transplant lab grown organs into animals. Something that Dvir says they hope to be able to do within a year.