In the recently published ‘3D bioprinting and its potential impact on cardiac failure treatment: An industry perspective,’ authors Ravi K. Birla and Stuart K. Williams explore the potential for tissue engineering in cardiac medicine, and the eventual assembly of a bioprinted heart.
While heart failure usually requires a transplant, it can be challenging to find a suitable donor. Once a transplant is completed, there is a long road ahead too via a permanent need for immune suppression therapy—treatment that is hard on patients. The usual survival rate for patients is typically under 13 years.
“There are currently more than 6.2 million patients in the US with heart failure, and heart failure accounted for 78,356 mortalities in 2016,” stated the authors.
In this study, the researchers review the challenges of bioprinting for the creation of heart tissue, as well as the ‘logical and systematic process to bioprint human heart.’
While medical science is full of progressive tools, treatments, and devices—especially for heart patients—no technology has been more promising for the eventual fabrication of organs than tissue engineering. With the potential to yield a biofabricated heart, made up of both ‘biologic and artificial construct,’ a total heart could feasibly emerge with modular parts for easy replacing.
Cardiac tissue engineering encompasses:
- 3D printed cardiac patches
- Biological pumps
- Blood vessels
- Comprehensive bioartificial hearts
“The ability to bioengineer components of the heart or the entire bioartificial heart, both have applications in changing the standard of care for patients with heart disorders,” explained the authors. “Depending on the severity of the patient, a cardiac patch may be sufficient to augment lost contractile function, while in cases of chronic heart failure, a total bioartificial heart may be required.
“In addition to spatial regulation of the cells, bioprinting also allows accurate placement of the biomaterials. This is where 3D bioprinting provides a powerful tool that allows us to accurately position different cell types in a very specific pattern, thereby allowing tight control over the heart bioengineering process.”
So far, most research involving bioprinting of cardiac tissue has shown the ‘initial feasibility of bioprinting hearts.’ With the amount of research and tools available today, such progress is inevitable.
“Based on the current state of the art in whole heart bioengineering, we can safely say that human hearts will be available for clinical transplantation though we cannot assign a specific timeframe for this fate to be accomplished,” state the authors.
Bioprinting of the human heart has its beginnings in the initial history of tissue engineering in 2003, and then further in research a few years later.
There has continued to be rapidly growing success in bioprinting and the subsequent fabrication of heart tissue, allowing scientists to realize less of fantasy in such exercises—and more of a reality.
The roadmap for bioprinting a heart includes:
- 3D printing of the microcirculation
- Construction of coronary macrovascular structures
- 3D bioprinting for the cardiac conduction system
- 3D bioprinting for heart valves
- 3D bioprinting for cardiac muscle
“The single most important challenge that needs to be overcome in the field, and one that in general staggers the field of cardiac stem cell therapy, is the immaturity of reprogrammed cardiomyocytes,” conclude the researchers. “Conversion of iPS cells to cardiomyocytes is now standard and reproducible, the differentiated cells resemble an embryonic phenotype, and driving these cells to an adult phenotype remains a critical challenge in the field of cardiac stem cell therapy.
“Once reproduced by independent research labs, coupled with the availability of commercial bioreactors for electromechanical stimulation, the availability of mature cardiomyocytes will provide a clear pathway to 3D bioprint human hearts for clinical transplantation.”
Bioprinting is used in a wide variety of applications today, from cardiac patches and cellularized hearts to the creation of heart valves, and more, ultimately shaping an overall transformation of cell culture. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.