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Scientists Create Functioning 3D-Printed Heart

Photo from Zurich Heart

Scientists have created a 3D-printed soft silicone heart that is very similar to and functions almost like the real thing. This technology could save the lives of people with cardiac failure, they said.

There are around 26 million people around the world who suffer from heart failure, and are at risk of dying due to the lack of donor hearts. Artificial blood pumps are used while a patient is waiting for a transplant, or until their own hearts recover, ETHZ reports.

This artificial heart weighs 390 grams, and has a volume of 679 cubic centimeters. “Our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function,” said Nicholas Cohrs of ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

It is a silicone monoblock with complex inner structure.

It has a right and left ventricle, like an actual human heart, though an additional chamber separates them instead of a septum.

The chamber is inflated and deflated using pressurized air, and is necessary to pump fluid from the blood chambers, mimicking the contractions of a real heart. The team behind the artificial heart has demonstrated how it works and moves, which closely resembles the human heart.

On the downside, the heart only lasts for around 3,000 beats, which means it only has a lifespan of a half hour to three quarters of an hour. After that, the silicone can no longer withstand the strain. Cohrs did say, “This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

The tensile strength of the materials they used and the performance of the heart would have to be improved greatly, the researchers said.

The research was published in the journal Artificial Organs.

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