Dvir. They then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models.
Though it's much smaller than a human heart-at only 2.5 centimeters, it's about the size of a rabbit's-the proof-of-concept still contains a fully vascularized structure, complete with its own cells, ventricles and atria.
The researchers noted that heart transplants are the only form of treatment for people with end-stage heart failure and that many sick people die while waiting for a transplant, which can take six months or more.
The process of creating the heart started with a biopsy of fatty tissue taken from patients.
Until now, the university said, scientists have been successful in printing only simple tissue without blood vessels.
The differentiated cells were then mixed with the bio-inks and were used to 3D-print patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.
One of the risks with heart transplants, or any kind of organ transplant, is that the host will reject the donated part.
The heart scientists printed couldn't be used in a human transplant operation.
Though the heart cells now contract, they're not synchronized or entirely functional.
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To do this, they separated the cellular material from the tissues and reprogrammed it to become pluripotent stem cells.
At this stage, the 3D printed heart produced at TAU is sized for a rabbit.
While the team's achievement is notable in this regard, Dvir contends its only the first breakthrough among many that will be needed for a truly operable organ: "We need to develop the printed heart further", Dvir said.
Regardless, the development is a massive step for the advancement of organ transplantation.
Researchers must now teach the printed hearts "to behave" like real ones.
"The biocompatibility of engineered materials [was] crucial to eliminate the risks of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments", said Dr. Dvir.
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.
"Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely", Prof Dvir said. Well, not anymore, say the scientists who have fabricated the world's first human heart with blood vessels.