A group of Swiss researchers have successfully 3D printed a synthetic heart that operates like a human one.
TechCrunch reports that using the same methods that are utilized to create a robotic arm that moves and acts like a human one, Swiss researchers have developed a replica of a human heart that operates much like a real heart.
Previously artificial hearts struggled with metal and plastic mechanisms which can pose difficulties when integrating with tissue and can often damage blood because of the artificial movement of the mechanism. This newly developed heart aims to fix those issues.
The heart was developed by researchers at ETH Zurich in collaboration with colleagues from the Product Development Group Zurich. The team behind the heart was led by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs, who says that this new artificial heart is the first of its kind.
The heart is not an exact replica of a human organ; in between the heart’s silicon ventricles isn’t just a wall but a chamber that fills and deflates creating a pumping action, but the replica is extremely close to how a real heart functions. The heart was 3D printed, allowing the researchers to make a complex inner structure out of a soft and malleable material, something that was previously extremely hard to do.
Due to the heart being printed in one single piece, or a “monoblock,” researchers didn’t have to worry about inner mechanisms or how they would fit together. All of the functioning elements were printed inside the heart. Researchers did, however, have to pay some attention to the input and output ports where the blood would flow to and from.
Currently, the heart is only a proof of concept and the material used to create the heart cannot last longer than a few thousand beats, but the group plans to create a working prototype out of much sturdier material in the future.
Anastasios Petrou, the grad student who led the testing of the heart, said, “As a mechanical engineer, I would never have thought that I would ever hold a soft heart in my hands. I’m now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts.” The group’s research was published in the journal Artificial Organs.