Researchers 3-D print soft, silicone heart that mimics human heart

In a step towards developing an artificial heart to replace damaged human hearts without  a transplant, researchers have 3-D printed a soft, silicone heart that closely mimics the organ.

According to commentators, with 26 million people suffering from heart failure globally, coupled with a shortage of donors, the development of a customised artificial heart is a significant development.

According to the team behind the artificial heart from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, the prototype heart could beat in a very natural way for about half an hour before the materials broke down. Meanwhile, researchers were working hard to improve their new invention.

"[Our] 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," says one of the team, Nicholas Cohrs, reported.

The silicone heart has left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, and an additional chamber that acted as the heart's engine by driving the external pump.

The idea was that pressurised air inflated and deflated this third chamber, which would drive blood through the ventricles. For the purposes of the study, a liquid with the same viscosity of blood was used.

The soft artificial heart was 3D printed using a lost-wax casting technique. It weighed 390 grams and had a volume of 679 cm3.

"This was simply a feasibility test," says Cohrs. "Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts."

Meanwhile, scientists last month explained how gene programming in a sea anemone could be used to teach human stem cells how to replace heart tissue.