Until now, the university said, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissue without blood vessels.
A 3D printer creates what Israeli scientist Professor Tal Dvir says is the world's first 3D-printed vascularized engineered heart, in a laboratory at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 15, 2019.
This latest invention represents a major turning point for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), as heart transplantation is the only definitive treatment for patients in the end-stages of the disease.
A 3D printed heart made from human tissue is processed in Prof.
The heart the Tel Aviv University team printed in about three hours is too small for humans - about 2.5 centimetres, or the size of a rabbit's heart.
Research for the study was conducted jointly by Prof. Assaf Shapira of TAU's Faculty of Life Sciences, and Nadav Moor, a doctoral student.
But while the current 3D print was a primitive one and only the size of a rabbit's heart, "larger human hearts require the same technology", said Dvir.
Describing their work in Advanced Science, the research team started by taking biopsies of fatty tissues from abdominal structures known as the omentum in both humans and pigs. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated.
First, patient-specific cardiac patches were created followed by the entire heart, the statement said.
Previously, scientists had only successfully printed simple tissues without blood vessels, while this heart had been personalized by using a patient's own cells and biological material.
"The biocompatibility of engineered materials [was] crucial to eliminate the risks of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", said Dr. Dvir. Dvir says. "Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient's own tissues". "It's completely biocompatible and matches the patient".
The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and "teaching them to behave" like hearts, Prof. Once that process is complete, they will attempt to transplant them into animal models.
"We need to develop the printed heart further", Dvir said. Currently, the cells can contract but do not work together.
The hearts can now contract, but still need to learn how to "behave like hearts", Dvir said, adding that he hopes to succeed and prove his method's efficacy and usefulness.