3D printing is getting plenty of attention in the tech market these days, and is expected to be worth $8.43 billion by 2020. Rightfully, the medical field is latching on. Recently, researchers from the University of Alabama and the University of Minnesota developed a 3D-printed patch that helps reduce heart failure.
Heart failure affects 5.7 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and costs Americans billions of dollars every year to treat, but a team of researchers led by Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, MD, PhD at the University of Alabama and Brenda Ogle, PhD at the University of Minnesota believe that their small, easily mass-produced patch can help lower the cost of treatment as well as reach more patients before it’s too late.
The engineered heart tissue patch is made from human cells which are then printed onto a one-micron-resolution scaffold for stability. The result is a muscle patch which beats in culture, and then may be used to regenerate heart tissue lost during a heart attack.
The heart alone cannot regrow tissue, and excess dead tissue can often contribute to more heart attacks in the future. If the dead tissue were replaced by these patches immediately following a heart attack, future heart attacks could be prevented, reducing the risk of heart failure.
During the team’s experiments, the 3D printed patches were placed on the hearts of mice who suffered from heart attacks due to high stress. After completing the surgeries, researchers found that the mice’s hearts were functioning at a much stronger capacity. The mice experienced improved overall cardiac function, blood vessel density, and cell proliferation.
This is believed to be the first experiment of its kind. The results were published in Circulation Research. In the report, the researchers explain the significance of these findings:
“[T]he cardiac muscle patches produced for this report may represent an important step toward the clinical use of 3D-printing technology. To our knowledge, this is the first time modulated raster scanning has ever been successfully used to control the fabrication of a tissue-engineered scaffold, and consequently, our results are particularly relevant for applications that require the fibrillar and mesh-like structures present in cardiac tissue.”