A 3D soft artificial heart has been printed by scientists out of silicone. The artificial heart beats almost like a human heart, putting us another step closer to replacing damaged human hearts without the need for a transplant being done.
A custom made artificial heart would be the ideal solution for around 26 million victims around the world who suffer from heart failure. There’s also a global shortage of donors who can donate their hearts, thus the 3D printed heart will provide a long-term solution to the problem.
The artificial heart has been designed by a team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, which says its prototype heart can beat in a very natural way for about half an hour before the materials break down. The researchers are currently working hard to improve their new invention.
Nicholas Cohrs, who is one of the team members, revealed that team’s goals is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient's own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function.
The artificial hear has left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an additional chamber that acts as the heart's engine by driving the external pump.
Pressurized air inflates and deflates this third chamber, which would drive blood through the ventricles for the purposes of this study, a liquid with the same viscosity of blood was used.
It weighed at around 390 grams and had a volume of 679 cubic centimeters, it's slightly heavier but about the same size as a normal human heart. The artificial version can eventually replace mechanical pumps.
The mechanical pumps are currently being used while people recover from heart failure or wait for a donated heart to become available. Every silicone heart only lasts for around 3,000 beats, the strength of the material and the performance of the heart need to be significantly increased.
Cohrs pointed out that the move was simply a feasibility test and that the goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.
The other option that researchers have lies in regenerating damaged heart tissue. Last month scientists explained how gene programming in a sea anemone could unlock a way of teaching human stem cells to replace heart tissue.