Imagine that you have a heart problem that requires a heart transplant – but instead of waiting for a donation, you could make a new organ in a 3D printer.
For now, this is just a dream. But science is working to make it come true in the not-so-distant future. This is the case of researchers at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, who were able to print a 3D heart with human tissue. The model created by the Israelis is a pioneer, because it has all the structures of a real heart: veins, ventricles and atria. No study so far had been successful in this feat.
To arrive at this result, scholars took samples of fat from people. They then separated cells themselves from extracellular materials, which consisted mostly of proteins.
The cells were reprogrammed to transform into stem cells, capable of generating any type of tissue in the body. With that, what were adipose tissue cells turned into cardiac and blood vessel cells.
The proteins were transformed into something that the researchers called biotinta , with consistency of gel. This gel acts as the glue that holds the stem cells together in the form of a heart. After several tests, the scientists arrived at the final model. It is not the size of ours – it is only 3 centimeters, the same as the heart of a rabbit or a cherry.
The 3D heart does not have the ability to pump blood. But this is the plan of the Israeli experts for the next experiments. They also plan to transplant the little hearts into animals to see if they work.