It has been a potential breakthrough in making organs in the lab. Israeli researchers have 3D printed a heart complete with muscles and blood vessels. But how long before it is ready for real use? Not a while, according to Dr. Max Gomez from CBS New York.
Printing an organ is much more complicated than spraying a bunch of cells in the form of a heart or kidney.
That being said, researchers at Tel Aviv University have taken a big step towards shelf-care.
Video shows that a living heart is printed. 3D printing includes not only heart cells, but blood vessels and other supporting structures. It's a little heart, about the size of a rabbit. Not only are the cells alive, but all the different cell types in the heart came from a single human donor.
"It's important because it prevents the possibility of rejection," says Dr. Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Dr. Atala is a pioneer in 3D printing of organs and tissues. He explained that the cells that made the heart came from a donor fat tissue, which was then converted to stem cells, and then differentiated into the different cell types in the heart.
These cells are then printed out into a biodegradable scaffold or skeleton, which gives it its shape.
Although it looks like a heart, it is not yet structurally functional and does not pump.
"A working heart must contract and be linked to ships to work" Dr. Atala said.
The first pressurized organs and tissues for real human use will be easier: blisters, ears, blood vessels and trachea, some of which have already been implanted in patients, Dr. Atala says.
The more immediate value of the Israeli work is to do what they call a heart patch, some functioning heart tissue to repair heart attack.
The heart patch, which has an innate ability to come into contact, can integrate into the heart much easier than building an entire heart that must be coordinated in a coordinated manner. Atria and ventricles must pump in an exact sequence for blood to be pumped effectively.