Researchers 3D bioprint realistic human heart model for the first time

A new method is able to create realistic models of the human heart, which could vastly improve how surgeons train for complex procedures.

3D bioprinted heart model
Credit: Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering
  • 3D bioprinting involves using printers loaded with biocompatible materials to manufacture living or lifelike structures.
  • In a recent paper, a team of engineers from Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering developed a new way to 3D bioprint a realistic model of the human heart.
  • The model is flexible and strong enough to be sutured, meaning it could improve the ways surgeons train for cardiac surgeries.

A team of engineers has created a new method for 3D bioprinting realistic, full-sized models of the human heart. The development could improve how surgeons train for complex procedures, and it could represent a milestone on the road toward 3D bioprinting functional human organs.

3D-printed organs aren't a new development. But current techniques produce models that don't feel or behave like real organs, because the printing materials are either too stiff or too soft. To create better models, Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues used a technique called FRESH, or Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels.

The technique, described in a paper published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, uses a specialized 3D bioprinter to print soft biomaterials in a gelatin bath of hydrogel. During the printing process, the hydrogel bath helps support the delicate organ model, preventing it from collapsing. Once printed, the team applies heat to the model, causing the leftover hydrogel to melt away.

Using MRI scans of a real human heart, the team was able to 3D bioprint an accurate replica made from alginate, an affordable biomaterial that's derived from seaweed. Alginate, which has been used in tissue engineering and wound dressing for more than a decade, has properties similar to real cardiac tissue, and it's flexible and strong enough for surgeons to suture. That makes it an ideal material to use in training scenarios on organ models.

"We can now build a model that not only allows for visual planning, but allows for physical practice," Feinberg said in a statement. "The surgeon can manipulate it and have it actually respond like real tissue, so that when they get into the operating site they've got an additional layer of realistic practice in that setting."

Modeling incorporates imaging data into the final 3D printed object.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering

The FRESH technique isn't currently able to 3D bioprint models onto which real cells can grow and form a functional heart, but similar methods may someday make that possible. If scientists can print functional human hearts, it could help the healthcare industry finally meet the demand for heart transplants, which far exceeds supply.

"While major hurdles still exist in bioprinting a full-sized functional human heart, we are proud to help establish its foundational groundwork using the FRESH platform while showing immediate applications for realistic surgical simulation," said Eman Mirdamadi, lead author on the paper, in a statement.

In the meantime, the team behind the FRESH technique hopes to use it to generate models for other organs, like kidneys and liver.

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Jupiter's moon Europa has a huge ocean beneath its sheets of ice.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Keep reading Show less

Lair of giant predator worms from 20 million years ago found

Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.

Bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).

Credit: Jenny – Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
  • The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
  • The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
Keep reading Show less

FOSTA-SESTA: Have controversial sex trafficking acts done more harm than good?

The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.

Has FOSTA-SESTA really lived up to it's promise of protecting sex trafficking victims - or has it made them easier to target?

Credit: troyanphoto on Adobe Stock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) started as two separate bills that were both created with a singular goal: curb online sex trafficking. They were signed into law by former President Trump in 2018.
  • The implementation of this law in America has left an international impact, as websites attempt to protect themselves from liability by closing down the sections of their sites that sex workers use to arrange safe meetings with clientele.
  • While supporters of this bill have framed FOSTA-SESTA as a vital tool that could prevent sex trafficking and allow sex trafficking survivors to sue those websites for facilitating their victimization, many other people are strictly against the bill and hope it will be reversed.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

What is the ‘self’? The 3 layers of your identity.

Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast