In a major breakthrough, scientists have 3D printed an actual heart from human tissue.
The organ has been created with all cardiovascular elements, including cells, blood vessels, chambers, and ventricles - something that has never been done in the history of regenerative medicine.
This is something that could ultimately end the shortage of donors for heart transplantation.
Here's all about the new 3D-printed heart.
Small 3D heart printed with human biological materials
3D printing technologies have been used for a number of medical purposes, including the generation of simple tissues.
But, researchers from Tel Aviv University took a giant leap when they managed to print an actual heart using cells and other biological materials.
The organ carries cells and other elements of a regular heart but is pretty small; just as big as a rabbit's heart.
This could revolutionize heart transplantation
"At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit's heart. But larger human hearts require the same technology," Professor Tal Dvir, who led the team, said, noting that the development demonstrates their potential for revolutionizing heart transplantation in the future.
How the team printed this heart
For printing 3D heart, Dvir's team took a biopsy of fatty tissue from patients and separated the cellular material from it.
The material was then processed to form a hydrogel that served as the 'ink' for their 3D printing model and allowed the team to create complex tissues, cardiac patches with blood vessels, and ultimately an entire heart.
Still, it is not fully functional
While the printing of a realistic heart marks a major development, it should be noted that it isn't fully functional.
The organ can contract but there's no blood-pumping - a problem that has to be resolved to get the whole thing closer to human compatibility.
The team says it plans to culture the heart to match its behavior with that of a real one.
When 3D printed hearts could be transplanted into humans
As the next step, the team will develop the heart to add pumping capabilities and to make them fully-functional.
Then, they'll begin trials on animal models, which will form the basis of creation of a 3D-printed heart for humans.
Dvir says "maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely."