Medical

Silicon 3D-printed heart looks and functions much like the real deal

Silicon 3D-printed heart looks and functions much like the real deal

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. The researchers claim their artificial organ is the first prosthetic heart that's entirely soft, created to mimic the shape and movement of the human heart as closely as possible. Sometimes, however, the mechanical parts of the pump can cause unwanted complications that can ruin the operation, threatening the life of the patient. While their solution isn't meant to replace a heart, the artificial silicon heart they developed is set to increase the rate of success of transplant operations.

3D printing and a lost wax casting technique were used to create the silicone heart, which weighs 390 grams and has a volume of 679 cubic centimeters. Around 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure, but there are not enough donor hearts to accommodate them.

Artificial hearts and other devices created to keep blood flowing typically take the place of damaged heart, while the patient awaits a donor organ or for their own heart to recover.

Well, not exactly like a real heart - in-between the ventricles isn't just a wall but a chamber that fills and deflates to create the pumping action.




Unfortunately, the device only lasts for about 3,000 beats, which for an average person represents about 45 to 60 minutes of functionality. "It is a silicone monoblock with complex inner structure", Cohrs said. The researchers of the silicone heart made use of this testing environment for their development process which also included the use of a fluid with comparable viscosity as human blood.

The silicone artificial heart is part of the Medicine department's Zurich Heart Project which brings together 20 research groups from Zurich and Berlin. It doesn't help that the human body also has a tendency to reject the metal and plastic instruments now in use, which look more like vehicle parts than organic tissue. "I'm now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts".

"Currently, our system is probably one of the best in the world", commented Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich.


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