3D bioprinting breakthrough leads to full-scale, functioning heart parts

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A 3D-printed heart valve produced by Carnegie Mellon University researchers

While in its early stages, bioprinting of human tissue is an emerging technology that is opening up some exciting possibilities, including the potential to one day 3D print entire human organs. This scientific objective has now grown a little bit closer, with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University reporting a breakthrough that enabled the printing of full-scale heart components that in some cases functioned similarly to the real thing.

The specialized cells that make up the various organs in the human body are glued together by what is known as an extracellular matrix (ECM). This is a web of proteins that not only holds everything together, but also provides the biochemical signaling needed for an organ’s regular, healthy function. Collagen is a protein that plays a key role in this structural integrity, but when it comes to bioprinting, also brings some unique and notable challenges.

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