Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed a method to 3D-print a functional component of the human heart, Engadget reported.
The technique allowed researchers to create functional long cardiac macrofilaments that develop into muscle-like filaments that can contract.
The Wyss Institute has leveraged bioprinting for some time, and the new technique is a refined version of its SWIFT (Sacrificial Writing in Functional Tissue) technology.
The new methodology included creating a platform of a little over 1,000 wells, each featuring two microscopic columns.
After that, the team fills each well with human-induced pluripotent stem cells — or immature cells capable of evolving into various forms — a protein collagen, and connective tissue cells.
A dense tissue then forms, and the team lifts the organ constituent off the microscopic pillars, and it is then used as bioprinting ink.
The 3D-printed cardiac tissue constructs have high cellular densities typical of normal heart tissue.
The project’s senior author, Jennifer Lewis, explained the benefits of the new technology.
“Being able to effectively mimic the alignment of the heart’s contractile system across its entire hierarchy from individual cells to thicker cardiac tissue composed of multiple layers is central to generating functional heart tissue for replacement therapy,” she said.
While this is a significant development, there is still much work before researchers can create a fully-functional 3D-printed heart.