Have you ever stopped and thought, "How awesome would it be if I could live forever?"
The answer to that question is probably a hearty "yes," because most of us are both afraid of death and haven't yet watched enough "Twilight Zone" to recognize that immortality is kind of a scam.* Well, good news, seekers of everlasting life: A research team in Israel has created a 3D-printed heart that's actually made of human tissue and vessels.
Of course, this doesn't mean you living forever is a lock, yet. This heart is just a prototype at the beginning stages of its journey, but the implications of this research are incredible. While this heart is only fit for rabbit-sized animal, further experimentation may soon lead to larger hearts that could be used for human transplants. Patches that regenerate defective heart tissue, The Times of Israel notes, are also on the table.
“[This is] the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” Dr. Tal Dvir, who led the project, told the press.
“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels."
The team's next challenge is to teach the heart to behave correctly (which seems like the setup to a rom/com if you ask me). Currently, the model heart can contract, but it cannot yet pump blood. After that's figured out, researchers can implant the hearts into animal models to see how they'll respond.
Optimistically, scientists hope that functioning human organs will be able to be printed in hospitals within the next ten years. Although Dvir believes that medical facilities will start with the "simpler organs" first.
One of the coolest things about the new breakthrough? The 3D-printed hearts can use a person's own tissue to create the artificial organ. So once this is a viable option, it'll also reduce the risk of bodies rejecting the organ.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world. Could a 3D-printed heart change all that? We're be(a)tting on it!**
*Or have watched enough Twilight Zone to recognize that immortality is a scam and still think "I could do it better."
**Pun proudly intended.