In a major medical breakthrough, Tel Aviv University researchers have printed the world's first 3D vascularised engineered heart using a patient's own cells and biological materials. Until now, scientists in regenerative medicine have been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women. Heart transplantation is currently the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure. Given the dire shortage of heart donors, the need to develop new approaches to regenerate the diseased heart is urgent.
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.
According to researchers, the use of native patient-specific materials is crucial to successfully engineering tissues and organs.
The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models.