Scientists from the University of Tel Aviv have just managed to use a 3D printer to build an engineered heart made of a patient’s own cells and biological materials.
You can read the full study at Wiley’s online library.
Up until now, scientists have managed to print sample tissues without blood vessels, managing to put together a heart complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers is something of a breakthrough.
It isn’t usable yet though – this first heart is only the size of a rabbit’s, and while the heart can contract, the researchers haven’t quite taught it to pump properly yet – they still need the cells to work together.
That said, if they can build a bigger one and train it to pump – because it is made from the cells of the patient, it could drastically cut down on people’s immune systems rejecting the transplant.
It would also solve organ donor shortages.
“Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” Prof. Dvir, Dr. Assaf Shapira said in a statement.
According to Liesl Zuhlke, writing at The Conversation, heart disease is one of the top 3 killers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is on the rise.
The biggest cause is hypertension, one in three South Africans is hypertensive, and about 10% are pre-hypertensive.
In 2017, IOL wrote a story which mentioned that only about 0.2% are willing to be organ donors due to religious and cultural reasons.
So it stands to reason that we’ve got a shortage.
That same year VOCFM released a story talking about how South African heart transplants had dropped by about 40%.
The ability to just 3D print a heart or any other organ based on the patients’ cells, would be a game changer for our country and for the world.
And it also shows one of the things I most admire about science – its global nature. Recently South Africa downgraded its embassy in Israel.
Whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing – it shows that our countries aren’t on the best of terms right now.
Yet here is a major breakthrough in Israel, that has the potential to save South African lives.
There is genuine beauty in that.