Though it may not look like much from the grainy screenshot below, Celprogen’s announcement today marks a milestone in making what has been dubbed as the ‘Holy Grail ‘ of 3D printing: they have managed to successfully print a human heart.
How did they do it?
The heart started as biodegradable PLA plastic constructs, serving as a flexible and material scaffold upon which to seed Cardiac Stem Cells. The PLA structures were created following the specifications of a mature 17 year old heart, reduced to one-third of its actual size.
After printing, the PLA hearts were then coated in ECM, short for extracellular matrix, which is a naturally occurring collection of molecules that provide structural and biochemical support to cells in the body.
After this, the PLA hearts were finally seeded with Cardiac Stem Cells, which cultured into a completed human heart.
Watch the video below to see how it works.
It is the PLA structure, and a liquid feed that gives the miniature heart its ability to contract. If you still can’t quite believe its real, you can also read its BPM recorded on a heart-monitor machine in a second video.
These videos were first published in August, after being monitored for a total of eight days. Celprogen’s goal was to keep the heart beating for a total of 14 days, and with their most recent press release we can only assume that it has been a success.
At the time of release, Celprogen expressed an optimism for the heart’s potential in toxicity studies for their drug discovery program. But now it seems that there is a heightened potential for its use in transplants:
‘The present invention relates to 3D organ printing programs at Celprogen that identifies potential future use in transplant of major organ systems. At present, Celprogen is validating the 3D human printed heart from flexible PLA.’ Celprogen Inc.
Other tech developments coming closest to reproducing a human heart include the ‘Person-on-a-Chip’ module developed by the University of Toronto in early 2016, and the bio-printed mini-kidneys covered by 3DPI in 2015.