Researchers a step closer to 3D printing the heart

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has published a paper in Science that details a new technique allowing anyone to 3D bioprint tissue scaffolds out of collagen, the major structural protein in the human body.

The first-of-its-kind method brin-gs the field of tissue engineering one step closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, adult hum-an heart.

The technique, known as Free-form Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels [FRESHI], has allowed researchers to over-come challanges associated with existing 3D bioprinting methods, and to achieve unprecedented re-solution and fidelity using soft and living materials.

Each organ in the human body, such as heart, is built from speci-alised cells that are held together by a biological scaffold called the extracellular matrix [ECM]. This network of ECM proteins provi-des the structure and biochem-ical signals that cells need to car-ry out their normal function. Ho-wever, until now it has not been possible to rebuild this complex architecture using traditional bi-ofabrication.

“What we’ve shown is that we can print pieces of the heart out of cells and collagen into parts that truly function, like a heart valve or a small beating ventri-cle. By using MRI data of a hum-an heart, we were able to accura-tely reproduce patient-specific anatomical structure and 3D bio-print collagen and human heart cells,”sags Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical enginee-ring and materials science & engineering at Carnegie Mellon, whose lab perfomed this work.

The FRESH 3D bioprinting met-hod allows collagen to be depo-sited layer-by-layer within a su-pport bath. With it, the support gel can be easily melted away by heating the gel from room temp-erature after the print is compl-ete. This way, the researchers can remove the support gel without damaging the printed structure.

This method is truly exciting for the field of 3D bioprinting beca-use it allows collagen scaffolds to be printed at the large-scale of human organs.

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