3D printed heart could replace heart transplants in future
Researchers have used 3-D printing technology to rebuild human heart. It certainly marks the beginning of a new era in medical science and may lead to the time when transplants will no longer be required for failing hearts.
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"We've been able to take MRI images of coronary arteries and 3-D images of embryonic hearts and 3-D bioprint them with unprecedented resolution and quality out of very soft materials like collagens, alginates and fibrins," Adam Feinberg, an associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University explained.
“We should expect to see 3-D bioprinting continue to grow as an important tool for a large number of medical applications.
3D printers generally build hard objects layer by layer. They are mostly made of plastic or metal and require support of layers for creating an item. That is why 3D printing with soft materials seems a heck of a task as the layers cannot provide enough support to build on something.
"The challenge with soft materials -- think about something like Jello that we eat -- is that they collapse under their own weight when 3-D printed in air," said Feinberg. "So we developed a method of printing these soft materials inside a support bath material. Essentially, we print one gel inside of another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it's being printed, layer-by-layer.”
About 2,000 heart transplants are preformed in US each year and more than 4,000 are on a waiting list due to the lack of donors. 3D printed heart model can become a better alternate to heart transplant in future.
Though 3D bioprinting is a costly method and requires specialists for expert level operation, professor Feinberg and his team has been able to implement this technique on conventional 3-D printers which will cut costs as well as improve the quality of the product by allowing changes and shuffles.
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“Not only is the cost low but by using open-source software, we have access to fine-tune the print parameters, optimize what we’re doing and maximize the quality of what we’re printing,” said Feinberg. “It has really enabled us to accelerate development of new materials and innovate in this space.”