Trade Resources Industry Knowledge Researchers at Cardiovascular Institute Hope to Create a 3-D-Printed Bioartificial Heart

Researchers at Cardiovascular Institute Hope to Create a 3-D-Printed Bioartificial Heart

Tags: Health, Medicine

Posted in Cardiovascular by Qmed Staff on November 22, 2013 Researchers at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute hope to create a 3-D-printed bioartificial heart in the next decade. The bioartificial heart would be designed from a patient's fat stem cells.

Speaking on the ambitious time frame, Stuart Williams, executive director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, told Wired UK: "Dare I say the heart is one of the easiest [organs] to bioprint? It's just a pump with tubes you need to connect"

As of now, the lab has designed a variety 3-D printers that can print electrical tissue, heart valves, blood vessels, heart muscles, and other parts of the heart. While the institute can print individual parts of the heart, researchers hope that next-generation devices will be able to print an entire human heart in one device.

"I took a step back and looked at my colleagues, and said, 'Why don't we build it like a large airplane?'" Williams said to LiveScience. "Separate the organ into separate components, figure out the best way to make the components, and then put them together."

One of the greatest challenges for a 3-D-printed bioartificial heart involves printing size limitations. As of now, the best 3-D printers in the world can only print on the millimeter scale. However, some of the blood vessels found on or in the heart have a diameter on the micron scale. To accurately replicate a heart without other processes, 3-D bioprinters will need to improve their printing accuracy by three orders of magnitude to print these highly-complex structures.

That said, cells do have the ability to self-organize over tie. For example, printing a 3-D heart on the 10 or 100 micrometer scale could potentially be feasible. Over the past year, there have been a variety of new and upcoming 3-D printing technologies. In early November, we reported on a 3-D printer out of the Univerisity of Nottingham that can be used to print replacement bones.

Companies like Organovo have created 3D printers that can print strips of liver tissues. While current technologies limit printing to a thickness of 20 cells, this technology could improve over time to allow for the printing of an entire replacement liver. That said, many believe that current 3-D printing technologies still face significant limitations.

While bioprinting has made significant progress over the past decade, it still faces significant challenges. "Nobody who has any credibility claims they can print organs, or believes in their heart of hearts that that will happen in the next 20 years," notes Brian Derby, researcher from the United Kingdom.

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Printing a Human Heart