Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Given that heart transplantation is currently the only treatment available for end-stage heart disease patients, the need for advances in cardiac regenerative medicine is urgent.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have succeeded in printing the world’s first 3D vascularized engineered heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. Scientists have so far only been able to print simple tissues without blood vessels.
“This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. 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,” said Professor Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, who led the research for the study. “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, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart. But larger human hearts require the same technology.”
For the research, a biopsy of fatty 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 (ECM), a three-dimensional 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.
Biocompatible engineered materials eliminate the risk of implant rejection, which can jeopardize treatment success. The 3D hearts completely match the patient’s immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties.
Source: Tel Aviv University