A team of Israeli scientists "printed" a heart with a patient's own cells in a world first, researchers say.
Past researchers had been able to print simple tissues without blood vessels, the team said. This development was the first time "anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers," Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University told The Jerusalem Post.
Dvir and his team reported their findings Monday in Advanced Science.
The heart, about the size of a rabbit's, is too small for a human, but the process used to create it shows the potential for one day being able to 3D-print patches and maybe full transplants, the team said.
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Because the heart is made from the patient's own biological material, it reduces the chance the transplant would fail, according to the research paper.
The team used fatty tissues then separated and "reprogrammed" the cellular and a-cellular materials. Stem cells that become heart cells were then created.
The development is being touted as a "major breakthrough" in medicine and one that could help battle heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Patients will no longer have to wait for transplants or take medications to prevent their rejection," Tel Aviv University said in a statement, per Bloomberg. "Instead, the needed organs will be printed, fully personalized for every patient."
However, the medical research is still a ways off from being able to transplant the 3D-printed hearts into humans, the team says.
Dvir told Bloomberg the heart the team printed will need another month before cells mature enough to beat and contract. Tests on animals would need to be done before the technology could be tried in humans, he added.
It also would take a whole day and billions, rather than millions, of cells to print a human heart, Dvir told Bloomberg.
But Dvir remains hopeful. "Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely," he told the Times of Israel.
Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israeli scientists 3D-print heart with human tissue in world first