Researchers Printed Artificial Heart on 3D Printer

Researchers 3D print a soft artificial heart that works a lot like a real one

Researchers 3D print a soft artificial heart that works a lot like a real one

It came to life during the doctoral studies of Nichals Cohrs, who is now part of the Zurich Heart project which focuses on improving existing blood pumps.

Even so, the device does suggest that it might be possible to create better artificial hearts in the coming years. With that said, the team says this proof of concept shows a possible path forward when it comes to artificial hearts. Artificial blood pumps help to bridge the waiting time until a patient receives a donor heart or their own heart recovers.

It looks like a real heart. It weighs 390 grams (the average human heart is about 310 grams), and has a volume of 679 cubic centimeters (a size comparable to the human heart).

Functional Materials Laboratory researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) have used 3D printing to create a silicone heart that beats nearly like the real thing.

The team stayed true to their mission and developed a silicone heart that has a right and a left ventricle like its real counterpart.

"This was simply a feasibility test", said Cohrs. But instead of a wall in between the two, they're separated by an extra chamber inflated and deflated by pressurized air in order to mimic contractions and pump blood.

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This is definitely a solid approach, and it could inspire the development of other artificial organs as well. For starters, it only lasts for around 3,000 beats, or 30 to 45 minutes. After this, the material can no longer withstand the strain and it starts to falls apart. "I'm now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts".

The heart is only a proof of concept, and now won't last longer than 3,000 beats - which equates to around half an hour - but the team intends to improve the strength of the material in further iterations. Photo via Zurich Heart.

The devices now used to pump blood around the body in lieu of a healthy heart have their drawbacks.

To test their silicone heart, the researchers made use of a state-of-the-art testing environment that simulates the human cardiovascular system.

"As a mechanical engineer, I would never have thought that I would ever hold a soft heart in my hands".

Nobody really knows when the prospect of a transplantable 3D printed heart could become a reality, but that won't stop researchers attempting to harness the power of 3D printing to make highly advanced replicas of one of our most vital organs.

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