Source: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
A team of Israeli researchers has “printed” the world’s first 3D vascularized engineered heart.
On Monday, a team of Tel Aviv University researchers revealed the heart, which was made using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. Until now, scientists have successfully printed only simple tissues without blood vessels.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said 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, who led the research for the study.
He worked with Prof. Assaf Shapira of TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Nadav Moor, a doctoral student. Their research was published in Advanced Science.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. In Israel, it is the second cause of death (after cancer) and in 2013 accounted for about 16% of the total number of deaths in Israel, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Heart transplantation is often the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure. The waiting list for patients in the U.S. can be as much as six months or more. In Israel and the US, many patients die on the waiting list hoping for a chance of survival.
“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,” Dvir explained. “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 heart produced at TAU is sized for a rabbit, but the professors said that larger human hearts could be produced using the same technology.
For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients, it was explained in a release. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells and efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial 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.” The differentiated cells were then mixed with the bio-inks and were used to 3D-print patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.