Apr 17, 2017 | By Tess

A team of biomedical researchers from the University of Minnesota have developed a 3D bioprinted patch that could help to heal heart tissue following a heart attack. The breakthrough process, which was recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research, is awaiting a patent.

Today, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, reportedly killing more than 360,000 people a year. Understandably, there is a wealth of research being undertaken to try and combat heart disease, some of which has involved 3D bioprinting. This recent bioprinting breakthrough achieved by a team from the University of Minnesota marks a significant step toward treating and healing hearts that have been damaged by heart attacks.

How does the 3D bioprinted tissue patch work? Well, when one suffers a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart is cut off or blocked, which in turn causes heart cells to die. While a person may survive a heart attack, the damaged heart cells cannot be replaced organically (resulting in scar tissue on the heart). Sadly, this often means that the person is more susceptible to heart failure and more heart attacks.

To try and overcome this, the team of researchers developed a method through which they can 3D bioprint heart tissue patches using a laser-based technology. More specifically, the researchers have used 3D printing to integrate human heart stem cells on a matrix, creating a heart tissue patch that is capable of growing and beating synchronously (as seen in the video below).

So far, the researchers have successfully placed the 3D bioprinted cell patch onto a mouse’s heart after a simulated heart attack. After about a month, the team reported seeing “significant increase in functional capacity” in the mouse'a heart, as the bioprinted patch (made from heart cells and structural proteins) became integrated and absorbed into the body.

“This is a significant step forward in treating the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S," said Brenda Ogle, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. "We feel that we could scale this up to repair hearts of larger animals and possibly even humans within the next several years.” The next step in the research will be to develop a larger patch to be implanted on a pig heart, which is roughly the same size as a human heart.

As Ogle continues to explain, the 3D bioprinted heart tissue patch is based on 3D scans of the structural proteins that make up real heart tissue, and is created by building up proteins and stem cells into that same structure. “We were quite surprised by how well it worked given the complexity of the heart,” she said. “We were encouraged to see that the cells had aligned in the scaffold and showed a continuous wave of electrical signal that moved across the patch.”

The research was recently published in the journal Circulation Research under the title “Myocardial Tissue Engineering With Cells Derived from Human Induced-Pluripotent Stem Cells and a Native-Like, High-Resolution, 3-Dimensionally Printed Scaffold.” Funding for the project comes from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Minnesota Lillehei Heart Institute, and University of Minnesota Institute for Engineering in Medicine.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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