For the first time in history, scientists in the University of Tel Aviv in Israel have created a fully vascularized human heart using a 3D printer.

Dr. Tal Dvir, study researcher and professor of molecular cell biology at Tel Aviv University informed regarding the breakthrough by issuing a statement on Monday.

According to Dr. Dvir, the 3D printed heart is modeled on a human patient and matches the immunological, cellular, biochemical, and anatomical properties of the patient.

Dr. Dvir further added that that the heart is made from human cells, and “patient-specific biological materials.”

“Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future,” said Dr. Dvir.

Research for the study was conducted jointly by Prof. Dvir, Dr. Assaf Shapira of TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Nadav Moor, a doctoral student in Prof. Dvir’s lab.

“At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart,” Dr. Dvir said, adding that “But larger human hearts require the same technology.”

“For the research, a biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients. The cellular and a-cellular materials of the tissue were then separated. While the cells were reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells, the extracellular matrix (ECM), a three-dimensional network of extracellular macromolecules such as collagen and glycoproteins, were processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the printing ink,” the statement released by Dr. Dvir said.

It also added “After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart.”

The researchers are now planning on culturing the printed hearts in the lab and “teaching them to behave” like hearts, Prof. Dvir says. They then plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animal models.