There is a revolution underway, but it has nothing to do with politics. Stuart Williams, a researcher from the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, believes that advances in 3D-printing could culminate in a ‘bioficial’ heart within the next 10 years. Williams describes the process as taking a three-dimensional structure “and essentially cloning it, using a printer.”

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“We think we can do it in 10 years — that we can build, from a patient’s own cells, a total ‘bioficial’ heart,” said Williams, executive and scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a collaboration between the University of Louisville and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

How exactly? Well, it’s no secret that 3D printing has come a long way in the past couple of years, but Williams believes the technology could revolutionize the medical industry. Instead of making machine parts, he believes that by utilizing cells and a 3D printing system, it will be possible to create human bones and organs, medical devices, personalized prosthetics and even, human tissues.

His team has recently been able to create and implant parts of hearts in mice as part of their heart-printing research. He and other scientists have also been studying medical applications of the technology since the 1990s.

The team’s research would see a 3D image of any structure made by depositing material in layers. The material can be either plastic, liquid or cells mixed with a biologically safe glue. However, the challenge for Williams lies in creating blood vessels, cardiac structures and, ultimately, hearts — to fight cardiovascular disease, which accounts for about three in 10 deaths in Kentucky, including his own father.

Currently Williams and his team are building a heart containing five parts, including valves, coronary vessels, microcirculation, contractile cells and the organ’s electrical system. They have already created and implanted a portion of a heart and blood vessels in mice, but the ultimate goal is to extract a patient’s fat through liposuction, isolate cells with a machine, mix them with the glue and “print” a heart — all within an hour.

This bioficial heart would cost about $100,000 in today’s dollars, not counting $150,000 or so in hospital and surgery costs. While that’s a lot of money, that’s less than the typical heart transplant, and doesn’t require ongoing costs for anti-rejection drugs.

+ Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in Louisville

Via Discovery News

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