MIT researchers have succeeded in creating the functional 3D printed twin of a human heart. It should allow patients requiring a transplant to increase the chances of success.
Here is a novelty that could well save lives. Those of patients to benefit from a heart transplant. This procedure remains one of the riskiest despite advances in medicine, because each heart is different, especially when it is sick. The risk is that you have to deal with the patient’s body, which has adapted to the pathology. Consequently, the transplantation of a new heart can lead to complications that are difficult to assess precisely. To avoid them, a team of five MIT researchers has found a way to 3D print functioning hearts. It is not a question of transplanting them to use them as artificial hearts, but rather of producing a 3D printed twin with the same characteristics as the patient’s heart. The heart can thus be configured to take on the faults of that of the patient. With this process, the researchers imagine that the waiting time and the risk of rejection could be considerably reduced. Doctors could indeed carry out preliminary tests to determine how to optimize the transplant and increase the chances of success.
The 3D printed twin of a heart
Scientists published an article in the journal Soft Robotics last month to describe the making of this heart. First, they use computed tomography (CT) to digitize images of the patient’s heart in order to model it in 3D. Then, they exploit the computer model to 3D print with a flexible photopolymer resin the patient’s left ventricle and the aorta. It remains to add flexible robotic sleeves that connect the assembly to a pump. The pumping movement of the heart is reproduced by taking over that of the patient. The blood flow, the pressure, the size, as well as the shape of the heart are therefore reproduced identically. They can even implant valves that mimic those used to widen the arteries of a real heart. And it works pretty well, because when they tested the 3D-printed heart with artificial blood, the researchers found that these valves actually produced similar results to those used in human hearts.