3D-printed materials are found in everything from toys to spacecraft. Even 3D-printed food somehow feels like, "Yeah, saw that one coming."
But if there's one area that still drops our jaws in amazement, it's 3D-printed living tissue. We've already written about eyes that came from a printer. Now, we're bringing you a heart.
Mini heart, huge breakthrough
A group of scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel have successfully printed the world's first heart from living tissue. This is just like the real thing—it has cells, blood vessel, ventricles, and chambers. Except, like a lot of recreations, it's a bit smaller—about 1/10th the size of a human heart, which makes it about bunny-sized.
Smaller size aside, the fact that this heart is made of living tissue is truly remarkable. How did they do it?
The scientists took fatty tissue from a human patient, then separated and manipulated the material within to help create a "bioink" (think bio and ink here, not a ball falling down the stairs going BIOINK!). The cells within the tissue were also adjusted to become stem cells. Stem cells are cells that do not yet have a specific purpose, which makes them very useful when you're trying to grow new tissue that a person's body will not reject.
Such as, say, a new heart!
This 3D-printed heart is not only too small for a human, it also does not yet pump blood. New innovations are still required to bring this type of organ up to size and up to speed. But the potential here is enormous.
Heart disease alone is a leading cause of death, and millions of people worldwide wait for transplants of this and other organs. Being able to 3D print an organ on demand and from a person's own body tissue? That has life-saving importance.
The scientists behind this project believe that this technology will create a fully-functioning human heart in about 10 years. Given all that has changed in the last 10 years of 3D printing, we believe it!
Watch the future unfold below.