December 28, 2916

    While the goal of 3D printing healthy implantable organs is still quite far off, we at 3Ders know that every small advancement in the field of 3D bioprinting is one step closer to it becoming a reality. In Australia, for instance, the Sydney-based Heart Research Institute () has developed a bioprinter that is capable of 3D printing human cells that could be used to repair damaged heart tissues.

    The breakthrough is significant as it is bringing the field of 3D bioprinting one step closer to the ultimate goal of 3D printing implantable human organs. As HRI scientist Dr. Carmine Gentile explained, patients would simply need to supply the medical staff with cells from their skin, which would then be used to generate stem cells, and subsequently, heart cells. With the ability to generate and print patient-specific heart cells, the doctors could create tissue which could be implanted onto the patient’s heart to repair the vital organ if it has been damaged.

    For example, the new 3D bioprinter could have many benefits for patients who suffer from heart attacks, especially for those whom traditional treatments are not effective. Typical treatments for heart attacks include angioplasty, a process where a balloon is inflated to widen coronary arteries that are blocked, and reperfusion therapy, which involves implanting stents and administering anti-clot drugs. 3D printed tissues could offer a much needed alternative to these.

    As Gemma Figtree, a cardiologist and associate professor at the Kolling Institute, : “By replacing the dead heart muscle with an effective patch, we may solve their heart failure that would dramatically improve their shortness of breath and their quality of life.” Considering that roughly 350,000 people are affected by heart attacks in Australia alone, and about 24 Australians a day die from them, the 3D printing breakthrough is significant.

    3D printed cells

    Aside from creating implantable heart tissues, the 3D bioprinter could also help to create organic tissues for the purpose of patient-specific drug testing. That is, by having a “mini” 3D printed organ made from the patient’s own cells, doctors could more effectively test drugs before using them on the patient him or herself. “This is a very striking finding where we are able to identify in a very short term, side effects that would be in people,” commented Dr. Gentile.

    Of course, the technology is not quite ready to deploy in hospitals around the country yet, as the HRI researchers believe their bioprinting technology could be available within the next five to ten years for patient treatments. So far, the research has produced amazing results, as the printed heart cells are already beating, just like a real heart would.



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