Researchers at Lousiville, Kentucky have bio-printed human heart parts using fat and collagen.
The Cardiovascular Institute, a partnership between the University of Louisville and the city’s Jewish Hospital, hopes that it might be able to assemble an entire “bioficial” heart in 3-5 years.
"We are utilizing printing and other biological manufacturing techniques to build these different parts of the heart," Dr Stuart Williams, the head of the institute, told TechRepublic.
The parts are assembled, piece by piece, rather than attempting to create the heart in one whole piece. Williams likened the process to building an aeroplane.
"[We are] taking a piece of fat, isolating regenerative cells in the fat, utilizing those, then mixing factorized cells with collagen, and it prints," he said.
The institute uses a six-axis machine that it created in-house.
The Daily Mail and others report that the eventual goal is to print using a patient’s cells, thus lessening the chances of rejecting an organ when this is able to be built. Williams estimates that human tests could be possible in under a decade.
Major challenges to be overcome before then include being able to keep tissue alive after printing.
"With complex organs such as the kidney and heart, a major challenge is being able to provide the structure with enough oxygen to survive until it can integrate with the body," Dr Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University told AAP.