A team of surgeons at the College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, unrevealed a new 3D- printing heart technique that promises to open new opportunities to plan and practice with the creation of the first full-sized 3D bio-printed model of the human heart, with results of the study published Wednesday in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.
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Professor of Biomedical Engineering Adam Feinberg along with his team have manufactured a complete full-size 3D bio-printed human heart model. They used the technique named “Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technique”. American Chemical Society recently released a video that was created from the MRI data using a specially built 3D printer.
The 3D printer model mimics the elasticity of the cardiac tissues of an actual heart and it will help surgeons in suturing realistically. These research advances culminates two years of research and it holds promise for both clinicians and surgeons along with the long term research inferences for the future of their bioengineered organ research.
Feinberg’s lab invented the 3D printing FRESH technique to address the long awaited wanting of the 3D printed soft polymers, that lack the firmness to stand without any support like in normal print. The technique uses a needle that inject a bio-ink into a soft hydrogel bath. This biological nature of the products will help in providing support to the objects. After finishing, moderate level heat is applied to melt the hydrogel that leaves only the 3D bio-printed object.
While the research team was able to prove the fidelity as well as the versatility of the technique, they faced a major obstacle of printing the full-scale human heart. This milestone predisposed towards intervening a new customised 3D printer that can hold a gel to support the bath which was large enough to print the heart at the desirable size. This tailor made printer was also able to address the minimum details including minor software changes to maintain the speed and fidelity of the print.
Usually, large number of hospitals can facilitate the 3D printing models of a patient’s body, so that surgeons can aware the patients and plan accordingly. However, only hard plastic and rubber can be used to model these tissues and organs. In the Feinberg’s lab, his team created a heart that was made of alginate, a soft natural polymer.
The use of this soft polymer caters similar properties of a real heart. Especially, for surgeons, this will allow the creation of a model that can help in cutting, suturing, and manipulating in ways that are similar to the real heart.
“We can now build a model that not only allows for visual planning, but allows for physical practice,” says Feinberg.
Conclusively, the findings represent an achievement that will help in this long journey of bioengineering a functional human organ. In the Feinberg’s lab, biocompatible soft manufacturing structure may help in elucidating the configuration of an organ system and pave new pathway for biomedicine in organ transplant.