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  • Imagine having the option to get a 3D printed organ.

  • No more waiting on a list.

  • Well, a team of biomedical engineers from Carnegie Mellon University are bringing us closer to that reality.

  • Say hello to the first flexible full-size 3D print of a human heart.

  • This heart mimics the structure and elasticity of the real thing!

  • The invention promises advances for the medical field, and future iterations could one day save someone's life.

  • You've definitely seen this kind of printer before.

  • This is a kind of additive manufacturing printer, where each layer is supported by a sturdy layer below.

  • Additive manufacturing printers are popular, but are typically known to build hard objects using materials like plastic or metal.

  • But rigid plastic organs aren't very practical.

  • These printers could be used with softer materials, like biological hydrogelsyou know, to make a heart

  • but those tend to collapse mid-print.

  • But this new method can change the game.

  • The 3D-printing technique is called Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels or FRESH.

  • It can print biological structures with soft squishy materials like alginate,

  • a biomaterial made from seaweed, which feels like human tissue.

  • AND it cleverly solves that collapsing problem during print by suspending flexible materials inside a container of gelatin.

  • It's like hair gelbut with body parts in it.

  • So, how does it all work?

  • For this team of researchers it all starts with a MRI scan from a real heart.

  • The scan getschopped-updigitally into horizontal slices by a program which then translates them into code

  • that a printer will understand.

  • A needle-like nozzle moves through the gelatin support bath,

  • extruding thin layers of alginate.

  • The layers stack on top of each other to build the shape.

  • When the print is complete, it's put in an incubator overnight,

  • where the temperature is raised to 37°C to gently melt away the gelatin support structure,

  • leaving only the 3D-printed heart.

  • In this full-size test, they were able to reproduce features as thin as 2 sheets of paper,

  • and in smaller-scale tests, they managed to get them as fine as a human hair.

  • 3D-hearts have been printed before, but they've been small

  • more fit for a rabbit or a mouse than a human.

  • Full-sized, 3D-printed hearts can also be used as educational tools to help surgeons prepare for surgery.

  • Older surgical models are made of rigid plastic or rubber, so they're helpful for planning,

  • but limited because surgeons can't interact with them like real tissue.

  • FRESH hearts can be cut and sewn-up, just like a real heart.

  • Now surgeons can use these more realistic models to refine surgical techniques

  • and test their tools in advance of the actual surgery.

  • So their practice test isn't…you!

  • And one of the coolest parts, is it could be a print of your specific heart!

  • This will allow hospitals to personalize replacement tissues.

  • For example, if you have a blocked artery and need a stent put into your real heart,

  • the surgeon can test the stent with the 3D printed heart to make sure it's a good fit.

  • They are beginning to use this technology to help design functional parts that in the past have been hard to get right.

  • Collagen-printed tri-leaflet heart valves are able to open and close,

  • and printed coronary arteries help move blood around the body.

  • Even ventricles made with cardiac muscle cells can visibly contract and start to synchronize.

  • All this is great, but it's not yet a functional beating heart.

  • Scaling up from an artery to the real deal is no small matter.

  • Using actual human tissues asbio-inkfor an organ-printer can be prohibitively expensive at the volumes needed.

  • According to one source, a heart made out of alginate is $10 bucks.

  • The same heart made out of collagen: $2000.

  • But if you're on the waiting list for this essential organ, you might be willing to pay any price!

  • Time is also a factor.

  • Currently, a full-scale FRESH model takes 4 days to complete.

  • If we printed with living cells at that rate, many would die during the process.

  • To make a full-size heart you need billions of cells.

  • Current technology can only produce a fraction of that, so there's still a long way to go.

  • Even if a fully-functional heart can't be created now, the team at Carnegie Mellon is already hard at work

  • refining the FRESH technology so it can build more complex models.

  • One day these printed tissues could be used to test drugs more safely,

  • decrease animal testing, and even replace or repair damaged organs with a new healthy 3D-printed duplicate.

  • One thing we can count on for sure is they're really putting their hearts into it.

  • If you thought 3D printed hearts were cool check out this video on how researchers are using light to print in 3D.

  • If you got any cool tech that we really need to know about, let us know down in the comments.

  • Make sure to subscribe to Seeker and thanks so much for watching.

Imagine having the option to get a 3D printed organ.

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The First Full-Size 3D Print of a Human Heart Is Here

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/24
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