Researchers at Tel Aviv University have 3D bioprinted a heart complete with atria, ventricles, and blood vessels using cells harvested from the patient. The work represents a major advance in 3D bioprinting.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. At the end stage of heart failure, the only effective treatment is a heart transplant. Unfortunately, there is a very limited supply of suitable donors.
Following a myocardial infarction, the heart cannot repair itself. One solution is to use cardiac tissue engineering to develop a cardiac patch that can be applied to the heart. A temporary scaffold could be constructed on which cardiac tissue is supported that promotes the reorganization of cells into fully functional tissue.
Over time, the scaffold would degrade to leave the functional patch in place. This method of treating patients could eliminate the need for a heart transplant.
One of the problems with this approach is choosing a biocompatible scaffold material to reduce the potential for implant rejection.
The Tel Aviv University researchers developed a new concept for creating fully personalized cardiac patches. The researchers started by taking a biopsy of fatty tissue from a patient then separated the cellular and non-cellular components. The cells were reprogrammed to create induced pluripotent stems cells (IPSCs) and a personalized hydrogel was created from the extracellular matrix.
The researchers mixed both together and used the mixture as a bioink. The ink was then printed to create patient-specific, thick, vascularized, immunocompatible, perfusable cardiac patches. Their technique can be used to create freestanding, cellular structures, complete with the major blood vessels. Since the patches were created from the patient’s own cells they fully match the biochemical and immunological makeup of the patient.
The researchers then took things a step further and created a heart complete with blood vessels, atria and ventricles using the personalized hydrogel. The heart is about the size of a rabbit’s heart and can contract, although further work is required to get the heart to function properly and be capable of pumping blood.
“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,” said Lead researcher Prof. Tal Dvir.
The study – 3D Printing of Personalized Thick and Perfusable Cardiac Patches and Hearts – has recently been published in the journal Advanced Science. DOI: 10.1002/advs.201900344