The future isn’t that far when there will be no need of muscle and once-living-tissue from animals to conduct experiments on hearts. The researchers from Harvard University have developed the first entirely 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip, which can gather data about how reliably a heart is beating.
They’ve created the printed organ using synthetic material designed to imitate the structure and function of native tissue. Instead of replacing faulty human organs, the heart-on-a-chip is designed to be used for scientific research. As the research on new medicine is rapidly increasing, this breakthrough could let scientists design organs-on-chips, which match specific patient’s cells or disease properties.
Organs-on-chips or microphysiological systems are capable of mimicking the structure and function of a living human organ. Each of them is made of a flexible, translucent polymer that allows researchers to imitate biological environments of living organs. They can also see an inner-working into how the organs actually work as chips are so clear.
The major part of that breakthrough is that the scientists have developed six different printable inks that can integrate sensors within the tissue being printed. The team also 3D printed into a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors in one constant printing process. The sensors could measure the beating of the heart.
It’s not the first time that 3D printing technology is being used in healthcare. Last year, some researchers from Lawrence Livemore National Laboratory developed 3D printed blood vessels. Even, in this June, researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering built a lung-on-a-chip designed to replicate a human lung. The heart is the latest edition in this organ-on-a-chip revolution.
“Researchers are often left working in the dark when it comes to gradual changes that occur during cardiac tissue development and maturation because there has been a lack of easy, non-invasive ways to measure the tissue functional performance,” Lind said in a statement. “These integrated sensors allow researchers to continuously collect data while tissues mature and improve their contractility. Similarly, they will enable studies of gradual effects of chronic exposure to toxins.”
They have published their work in Nature Materials. The research was authorized by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, the Harvard University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), the US Army Research Laboratory and the US Army Research, and the National Science Foundation.