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Scientists develop 3D printer which can replicate parts of the human heart

Previous attempts at printing parts of human organs had failed or delivered limited results.

Scientists hope the new technology can help those with heart conditions.
Scientists hope the new technology can help those with heart conditions.
Image: Shutterstock/sitthiphong

US SCIENTISTS HAVE successfully built functional heart parts out of collagen using a 3D bioprinter – a breakthrough they say could one day create entire organs.

Their technique described in the journal Science replicates the body’s own complex biological scaffolds that provide the structure and biochemical signaling that organs need to function.

“What we were able to show was you can actually 3D print a heart valve out of collagen, and they function,” Adam Feinberg, one of the paper’s co-authors told AFP.

Previous attempts at printing these scaffolds, known as extracellular matrices, had been hindered by limitations that resulted in poor results. 

Collagen, which is an ideal biomaterial for the task since it is found in every tissue of the human body, starts out as a fluid and attempting to print it resulted in puddle of jello-like material.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University were able to overcome these hurdles by using rapid changes in pH levels to cause the collagen to solidify with precise control.

“That’s the very first version of a valve, and so anything that we engineer as a product will actually get better and better,” Feinberg said.

The technique could one day help patients awaiting heart transplants, but it will first need to validated through animal testing and eventually on humans.

“I think more near term is probably patching an existing organ,” such as a heart that has suffered a loss of function through a heart attack, or a degrading liver, said Feinberg.

© AFP 2019  

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