Researchers have printed out a realistic 3D human heart which feels exactly like one and can be used for various purposes.
Whether you use it as an expression to denote love or see it as a tireless muscle, the heart is the most critical organ of the human body. So much so that the rib cage was primarily designed to protect this crucial organ. Despite the advancements and centuries of biological research, we keep on learning more about the heart.
Globally, heart-related diseases account for most deaths. There are no guaranteed cures for heart diseases as of now, but the hopes aren’t lost for finding a cure.
Eureka of a 3D Heart Model
Scientists have moved a step further to help us understand the heart without using cadavers and hard, rubbery, or unrealistic plastic models of it. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have managed to print a 3D heart out of a polymer closely resembling cardiac tissues.
Guided by Professor Adam Feinberg, his team has managed to ‘bioprint’ a full, fist-sized heart with the help of the Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technique. The study was posted in the American Chemical Society (ACS): Biomaterials Science & Engineering.
Accuracy and Creation of the 3D Heart Model
A video published by the team shows a 3D printer specially constructed for the process. With the help of MRI data and a specially used ‘Bioink,’ a replica of the heart is created by scientists.
The substance used to make the heart is a natural polymer called alginate. The replica behaves and feels like a real human heart by imitating the cardiac tissue, construction, chamber, tissues, etc. Since the device to print the model in layers, the 3D image had to go through a slicer program to produce every minuscule layer of the heart. The model can be squeezed, cut, sutured, and operated upon as a real human heart.
Check out the video below:
A Revolution in Bioengineering
The replica has been covered by a protective layer of support gel, which can be discarded and safely dissolved away by exposing the heart to a water bath at a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. The gel melts away, and one can now use the model for educational, experimental, and research purposes.
According to Feinberg, it’s a gel that most people have experienced. He said: “I think many people have experienced this from using gelatin in baking or making jello shots. It’s a liquid when you warm it up, but it becomes a solid gel when you cool it down. And so we take advantage of that.”
The research was an effort of two years and promised momentum in surgery and medical practitioners. The models will also help explain to patients about the cardiac surgeries they may undergo and thus, help them understand. This will also help in biomedical and bioengineering research.
Fiction Becoming Reality
Feinberg explains: “We can now build a model that not only allows for visual planning but allows for physical practice. The doctor can manipulate it and have it respond like real tissue so that when they get into the operating site, they’ve got an additional layer of realistic practice in that setting.”
What was once seen as science fiction and impossible is now rapidly turning into an accessible reality. Due to various reasons, medicine faces many obstacles when it comes to discovering and prolonging human life. The invention of models obtained from eco-friendly sources provides a viable platform for several physicians, surgeons, scientists, and even people curious to understand their organs. It may soon even be possible with the help of this technology. Doctors can completely reconstruct or replace defective tissues and organs with 3D printing.
This study has proved that whatever the human mind is capable of thinking, it is capable of creating.