Time will soon come that we will consider organ heart donation as an obsolete thing of the past, and in now with the 3D printing of a human heart. This is not a sheer figment of the human imagination because it is now made real.
One of these coming days, people afflicted with a heart condition will be asking instead for a 3D printing quote for a human heart.
Gone are the days when we needed to look for a human heart donor for someone afflicted by end-stage cardiovascular conditions and were in dire need of a heart transplant anytime soon.
The World Health Organization asserted recently that cardiovascular disorders are among the top causes of deaths around the globe. This would be accounting for around 15% of all deaths worldwide.
For patients who are distressed with their cardiovascular disorders, the only viable treatment available for them would be a heart transplant procedure. But we are aware that healthy organ donors are hard to come by, let alone a heart donor in tip-top shape. Hence, scientists are compelled to look for better and new alternatives — this time we have 3D printed or bioprinted human hearts.
For several years in a row, 3D printed organs dominated the headlines and the front pages of different medical journals and magazines. Back in 2013, the first-ever human liver prototype intended for 3D bioprinting was produced. The involved process took live cells from donor organs to help in the creation of material used for bioprinting purposes, known as “bio-ink”. The recreated cells were carefully laid down, layer-by-layer, creating in the process the actual tissues of a human liver. While the process proved to be highly successful, it is not considered as highly suitable for transplantations but has been utilized for drug testing.
Not long ago, in 2018, a medical 3D printing Australian firm successfully made a bioprinted kidney intended for use in a patient slated for a kidney transplant operation.
A team of scientists headed by bioengineers Kelly Stevens from the University of Washington and Jordan Miller of Rice University made a bioprinted vascular network. The said 3-dimensional printed vascular network is designed to mimic the human body’s natural passageways for lymph, air, blood, and other vital fluids. The innovation was a major breakthrough and significantly helped in surmounting a major hurdle that is normally accompanying the printing of functional tissues of the human body. Moreover, it served as a precedent to perfecting bioprinted replacement organs.
But we are now taking a step further into the future.
Scientists from Tel Aviv University made an announcement that they were able to successfully 3D-print a small scale, the human heart. This one’s complete with blood vessels, chambers, and ventricles. There is a less probability that this type of bioprinted heart will not be rejected by the human reason being that it is 3D printed using human cells as opposed to the heart of an animal or something that is made from some kind of artificial material.
More Work Ahead
The said 3D printed heart, although relatively small, may not be high time for use yet. It is about the size of a rabbit’s heart and whether it can retain its viability and integrity after it being scaled up to the size of a human heart will remain in question for the time being. While the artificial 3D printed heart can contract, the cells have not developed yet the ability to pump on their own. This signifies that more strenuous work ahead will be needed.
But the researchers involved in the experiment are full of optimism in this. The team has drafted out plans to carry transplantation procedures to some select animals in a year’s time. The research team leader expressed their high hopes in their method, that in about a decade’s time organ printers will be made available in many hospitals around the world. With that, the procedures they are trying to make perfect will be conducted routinely. Until then, you will be able to request for a 3D printing quote for heart replacement from your trusted physician.