Medical science has jumped leaps and bounds since the early 20th century to reach where it is right now. Along with medical science making advancements all over the world, the ancillaries to the medical industry too are making strides of their own with the growing needs and time.
A very stand out ancillary, the prosthetics industry has been making its own strides in bionics, osseointegration and 3D printing. 3D printing has been a very keen area that researchers are into, developing newer and newer materials for different kind of body parts being 3D printed. An exceptional development recently has been that of 3D printed human heart.
Swiss researchers have, with the help of the technology backing soft robotics, managed to 3D print a human heart. The technique that a robotic arm uses to flex and function like a real arm is what led to these Swiss researchers believing that even more complex structures can be attained.
The team of researchers being led by ETH doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs have gone ahead and created what might be the first ever entirely soft heart, along with its natural pumping action which has been made possible by using silicone ventricles just like in the heart. It obviously is not 100% mimicking the human heart, as between the ventricles is actually a chamber that fills and deflates to create the pumping action instead of a wall.
The heart is a mono block (a single part), thereby negating the worry of how the other parts would work in sync with each other apart from the input and output blocks which allows for the books to come in and go out. This was possible due to a certain printing technique which allowed the researchers to create a complex inner structure while utilizing this really flexible material for the structure.
Tests and a Catch
The heart has performed well in tests by pushing a liquid similar to that of blood against the body like pressures. Since all this sounds too good to be true, there must certainly be a catch! Well, this heart is not entirely functional as of now. It is just a glimpse or a proof of concept for the future. The materials used give up its flexible properties in a few thousand repetitions which are considering an average person's heart beat a time of approximately 30 minutes. The concept in itself is visionary and will bring revolution in medical science.
The main hindrance to make an actual functioning portable artificial heart prosthetic, has always been the materials used to develop the human heart. Existing metals and plastics were proving to be very rigid and difficult to integrate with the tissue and might have even damaged the blood with its unnatural movement style. Now with this very promising step taken; we hope the day, where completely cloned human hearts are a reality, is not far away. And everyone waits for the same eagerly.