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Harvard's 3D-printed heart on a chip could lead to personalized medicine breakthroughs

Lucas Mearian | Oct. 26, 2016
Results could also speed up drug research and eliminate need for animal testing

The researchers can literally take skin cells from a patient that suffers from a heart complication and turn the cells into stem cells, which can then be made into cardiac cells, Lind explained. Those heart cells then match the exact genetic profile of the patient.

"By making a heart-on-a-chip device with those cells, we could then investigate potential therapies for that specific patient," Lind said. "This might sound a bit like science fiction, but our lab has already been part of investigating patient specific therapies using heart-on-a-chip devices in a previous study."

The latest 3D, bioprinted heart-on-a-chip can be quickly fabricated using an automated process, but it also allows for customization of individual patients by using their own cells, which enables researchers to collect reliable data for short-term and long-term studies.

"Because the entire device is 3D printed, we can easily change design to accommodate, for instance, a specific cell source. This will in the future enable us to tailor the device to heart tissue derived from induced stem cells from a specific patient," Lind said. "This new programmable approach to building organs-on-chips not only allows us to easily change and customize the design of the system by integrating sensing but also drastically simplifies data acquisition."

The Wyss Institute is not alone in its development of 3D bioprinting for drug testing.

Along with research at other universities, 3D bioprinting technology for medical research and therapeutic applications has also been accomplished by San Diego-based Organovo, which printed the first human liver on a chip in 2014.

Organovo also began printing human skin, which could be made from a patient's own cells and used for grafting.

Also in 2014, MaRS Innovations collaborated with the University of Toronto to create the PrintAlive Bioprinter, which it commercialized for the purpose of printing human skin.


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