Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have achieved a remarkable feat by developing a cutting-edge technique that enables the 3D printing of functional heart ventricles capable of rhythmic beating. This breakthrough technology not only holds the potential to revolutionize drug testing for cardiac conditions but could also pave the way for the creation of entirely implantable cardiac components.
By leveraging rotary spinning, the team successfully produces tiny fibers, which are then incorporated into a printable hydrogel ink. The printed structure retains its form, with cardiomyocytes aligning along the fiber direction. When electrically stimulated, the printed structure beats in sync with the fiber orientation, granting precise control over its behavior. This advancement could unlock advanced cardiac models for drug testing and personalized medicine tailored to individual patients.
Expanding Possibilities in Bioengineering
The realm of bioengineering presents vast opportunities for replacing diseased tissues. An intriguing side benefit of our progress toward faithfully replicating such tissues in the lab is the creation of sophisticated in vitro models for drug testing and personalized medical interventions. This recent innovation, utilizing Fiber-Infused Gel (FIG) ink as the medium for 3D printing cardiac components, holds significant promise for cardiac patients.
Elevating Drug Testing and Personalized Medicine
Suji Choi, a researcher integral to the study, highlighted the broad applications of replicating organ structures and functions for drug safety and efficacy testing. “This concept is broadly applicable – we can use our fiber-spinning technique to reliably produce fibers in the lengths and shapes we want,” Choi explained.
Innovative Process: Rotary Spinning and Hydrogel Ink
The novel process entails rotary spinning to generate delicate gelatin fibers, reminiscent of the creation of cotton candy. An ingenious idea emerged from postdoctoral researcher Luke MacQueen, who proposed incorporating these fibers into a printable hydrogel ink to maintain its structural integrity post-printing.
Expanding the Spatial Scale
Kit Parker, another researcher involved in the project, elaborated on the visionary aspects of this endeavor. The goal was to extend the range of spatial scales viable for 3D printing, reaching as far as the nanometer scale. Unlike electrospinning, which degrades certain proteins due to electrical fields, rotary jet spinning offers a more advantageous approach for fiber production.
Precision through Electrical Stimulation
Upon 3D printing, the cardiomyocytes present within the gel align themselves along the fibers. Upon electrical stimulation, these cardiomyocytes beat in harmony with the fiber orientation, offering a significant advancement in controlled physiological behavior.
A groundbreaking technique developed by Harvard researchers allows for the 3D printing of heart ventricles capable of rhythmic beating. Leveraging rotary spinning and hydrogel ink, this advancement could transform cardiac drug testing and potentially pave the way for implantable cardiac components. The technology’s precise control over the behavior of the printed structures brings bioengineering and personalized medicine to new heights.
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