3D printing and medicine have been best buds as of late with researchers using the technology to print everything from blood vessels to working organs. Now one group of researchers wants to use 3D printers to replicate the heart.
A team at Kentucky’s Cardiovascular Innovation Institute is making their own 3D printers in the hope that they can be used to print a working human heart within ten years. It’s an incredibly ambitious goal, but one that would have dramatic repercussions throughout medicine. After all, think of the benefits of a heart crafted from a person’s own cells instead of a donor heart that the patient’s body may end up rejecting.
So, how does one go about 3D printing a heart? It all starts with fat as the process extracts cells from the patient’s fat. The cells are then used in a 3D printer that layers human tissue in the shape of a heart. These cells are held together with a glue that will eventually dissolve as the cells naturally join together to form a working heart.
The best part about this potential new source of transplantable hearts is the cost. The cost of a printed heart is ballparked around $100,000 and the surgery itself would cost around $150,000. That may seem like a lot, but it’s far cheaper than what a heart transplant currently costs. The patient would also save money on medication as anti-rejection drugs wouldn’t be necessary for a heart made from the patient’s own cells.