With that said, the team says this proof of concept shows a possible path forward when it comes to artificial hearts. What's needed in the interim is a device that more closely resembles the real thing, and that's exactly what a research team led by Nicholas Cohrs from ETH Zurich has done. Cohrs thereby states the "goal 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". It came to life during the doctoral studies of Nichals Cohrs, who is now part of the Zurich Heart project which focuses on improving existing blood pumps. It's built using 3-D printing techniques, which are increasingly popular for creating synthetic organs, in order to create an internal structure that mimics that of a real human heart, with right and left ventricles. It moves like a real heart.
This new silicone heart was developed by researchers at the Functional Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
In the future, it could be used as an temporary heart instead of the blood pumps hospitals use today for patients waiting for a heart transplant. This special chamber inflates and deflates with pressurized air, and pumps fluid from the blood chambers. "It is a silicone monoblock with complex inner structure", Cohrs said. However, it still has one problem: it now lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour.
Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich, led by Professor Mirko Meboldt evaluated the performance of this soft artificial heart. The findings were reported in the journal Artificial Organs. After this, the material can no longer withstand the strain and it starts to falls apart.
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After the tests, researchers found that at this moment the material can sustain only for around 3,000 beats that are less than an hour considering normal pulse.
"This was simply a feasibility test".
The devices now used to pump blood around the body in lieu of a healthy heart have their drawbacks. "Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts".
Nobody really knows when the prospect of a transplantable 3D printed heart could become a reality, but that won't stop researchers attempting to harness the power of 3D printing to make highly advanced replicas of one of our most vital organs.