Over the past few weeks, there have been quite a few intriguing technological breakthroughs for the healthcare sector. Not only are scientists working on an artificial lung, but it now appears patching up heart tissue is about to become a lot easier. Up until this point, there has been no feasible solution allowing for this feat, but the new 3D-printed cell patch may change all of that.
A 3D-Printed Patch To Heal Heart Tissue?
Anyone suffering from a heart attack is well aware of how there is some scarred heart tissue that remains behind. Up until now, scientists have been unable to make this tissue heal up again in a convenient solution. Actual heart tissue is very complex to replicate, yet it appears there is a new solution in the works. As odd as it may sound, scientists feel they are close to producing a working 3D-printed cell patch to heal scarred heart tissue.
To be more specific, scientists have developed a prototype made of adult human heart cells. These stem cells have been bioprinted – using a laser – to a matrix which was developed around a 3D scan of native heart tissue proteins. As the cells started to grow, the matrix was able to replicate the structure of normal heart tissue. That is a major scientific and technological breakthrough, as it would allow patients recovering from a heart attack to regain some of their “lost” tissue.
As one would expect, this revolutionary tissue patch needs to go through proper testing first and foremost. So far, the scientists have successfully tested the 3D-printed patch on a mouse, which yielded results beyond expectations. In fact, it took only four weeks before the mouse’s heart started showing clear signs of recovery. Additionally, the mouse regained some of its lost heart capacity in the process, which is far more than anyone could have hoped for at this stage.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this patch is how it seems to fit the patient’s heart without the need for follow-up procedures. That in itself a big step forward. Patients suffering from a major heart attack often have to undergo additional procedures to make sure everything is working again. Some people even need to have a pacemaker installed. It is unclear whether or not this patch can effectively replace the need for pacemakers as well, as the maximum capacity of the patch still has to be determined at this stage.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind one cannot compare a mouse’s heart to human heart tissue. It is by far – theoretically speaking – easier to patch a mouse’s heart compared to a human organ. That being said, the prototype of this 3D-printed patch goes to show the team is definitely on the right track right now, and more progress can be made in the coming years. This type of technology will bring major benefits to healthcare, both for humans and animals, by the look of things.
It is good to see the healthcare sector evolve thanks to the use of 3D printing and other technologies. Healing tissue after a heart attack with a one-patch-fits all is quite a significant breakthrough, to say the least. Scientists are confident this patch will be ready for human consumption in the next several years, which gives everyone something to look forward to.
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