Harvard Research Institute develops 3D printed heart technology, and the printed heart filaments can grow by themselves

In the 2019 Global Health Assessment Report published by the World Health Organization in December 2020, heart disease has been the leading cause of death globally over the past 20 years, and heart disease has killed more people than ever before. Heart disease deaths have increased by more than 2 million since 2000, rising to nearly 9 million in 2019.

▲ Picture from: The Guardian Nigeria

There are many seriously ill patients who need heart transplants, but the wait is always too long, and it's not uncommon to wait more than six months or even before life runs out. Thus, we need more effective alternatives to cardiac tissue.

In 2017, a research team at ETH Zurich used 3D printing technology to create an artificial silicone heart that beats like an organ in the human body, but tests at the time showed it could last only 30 to 45 minutes of use. .

▲ Picture from: ETH Zürich

In 2019, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel successfully printed the first 3D heart using patient cells and biomaterials. Although this is a complete heart including blood vessels and ventricles, it is only the size of a rabbit heart.

▲ Picture from: Tel Aviv University

The regeneration capacity of the heart itself is limited. Although these artificial hearts have certain achievements, they cannot simulate the highly structured structure and complex functions of the myocardium, and their role in restoring cardiac function is naturally limited.

Now, a team of Jennifer Lewis at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has developed a new set of heart engineering techniques.

▲ Picture from: Wyss Institute

This approach is an improvement on Wyss' existing SWIFT bioprinting technology, built on top of the 3D bioprinting platform. The platform developed by the researchers has 1050 individual wells, each containing two micropillars.

Pre-assembled cardiac organ building blocks (OBBs) were formed using artificially induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSCs-CMs), which were then removed from the micropillars and used as raw materials for the fabrication of dense bioinks using a 3D printer during the printing process. Head movement for further alignment.

▲ Picture from: Wyss Institute

After trials, the researchers were able to print intricate and varied arrays of aligned cardiac tissue sheets that were organized and function like actual human myocardium.

To test the contractile characteristics of the printed heart structures, the researchers also printed "large filaments" connecting the two large pillars and found that the contractile force and speed of contraction produced by the filaments increased over 7 days, indicating that the heart is thin. The filaments continue to mature into true muscle-like filaments.

▲ Picture from: Wyss Institute

This means that this technique can effectively simulate the arrangement of the cardiac systolic system in its entire hierarchy, from single cells to the thicker cardiac tissue composed of multiple layers, which is important for generating functional hearts for replacement therapy. Tissue is critical and can also be used to generate more physiological disease models.

Using this technology in the future, it may be possible to create highly structured myocardial patches that match the specific site of a heart attack in different patients. For example, patient-specific "holes" in the hearts of newborns with congenital heart defects could be custom-made to patch, and the patches could develop with the child rather than having to be replaced as the child grows.

▲ Picture from: Wyss Institute

Although there is still a long way to go before the realization of 3D printing a fully functional and complete heart, the emergence of this technology is already a great progress, and it may not be far from the day when it is difficult to get rid of the "medical heart".

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