Scientists Try Using a 3-D Printer to Build a Human Heart

Next time that you print something from your computer, think about the fact that research is being done to print an actual human heart from a 3-D printer!

Scientists hope that they will be able to use a 3-D printer to create a new heart for a patient with their own cells. They could then transplant it into the patient, and because the heart was ‘built’ from the patient’s own cells, he or she would not need anti-rejection drugs.

The 3-D printer works in much the same way an inkjet printer does, with a needle that squirts material in a predetermined pattern. Scientists said the heart they envision would be built from cells taken from the patient's fat.

The cells would be purified in a machine, and then printing would begin in sections, using a computer model to build the heart layer by layer. The 3-D printer uses a mixture of a gel and living cells to gradually build the shape. Eventually, the cells would grow together to form the tissue. The finished product would be called the "bioficial heart" - a blend of natural and artificial.

This technology is not all that futuristic: researchers have already used 3-D printers to make splints, valves and even a human ear.  3-D printing technology has already helped in other areas of medicine, including creating sure-fitting prosthetics and a splint that was printed to keep a sick child's airway open.

To learn more about 3D printing of human body parts, go to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/3d-printer-human-heart_n_5124677.html

http://www.3ders.org/articles/20140106-japanese-researchers-3d-print-blood-vessels-using-patient-skin-cells.html

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-04/24/3d-printed-liver

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