Researchers from Tel Aviv University have “printed” the world’s first three dimensional (3D) vascularised engineered heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. The study was published on 15 April in Advanced Science.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said the lead researcher Prof. Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, in a press release.
For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was retracted from the patient. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. The cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells which were differentiated into cardiac muscle cells and endothelial cells. The extracellular matrix (ECM), a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules involving collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel.
The two cell types were separately combined with the hydrogels to form the bio-ink for printing parenchymal cardiac tissue and blood vessels. The experiment created patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.
The bio-ink being derived from the patient’s own cell does not provoke immune response thereby minimizing complications after transplantation.
“At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart,” explained Prof. Dvir. “But larger human hearts require the same technology.”
Prof. Dvir concludes that further studies need to be performed in developing the printed heart in acquiring the pumping ability. “..They can currently contract, but we need them to work together,” he said.