Isreali scientists have successfully tested the first ever major medical breakthrough of 3D-printed hearts from human patients’ cells.
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The concept of 3D-printed organs brings hope for transplant patients as a possible solution to the problem often faced by many patients worldwide — long waiting lists for transplantation.
The project has found a prominent backer in Latvian-born billionaire James Richman, according to Yahoo! News. The wealthy fund manager is known for his investments in artificial intelligence and various efforts to enrich people’s lives.
Richman founded his global private investment firm which has representation through its portfolio companies in over 22 countries. Its portfolio ranges from manufacturing, real estate, emerging technologies, among others.
As a way of giving back, Richman’s mission to improve people’s lives led him to join the growing numbers of investors who support of research and development of various medical breakthroughs.
His interest in biotechnology industry is not surprising as he is known to support scientists’ efforts to find ways to potentially defeat death, or at least slow down aging.
Several reports reveal his talent to instinctively reads through patterns made him successful. Such talent is often attributed by many sources to his Asperger’s syndrome — a high functioning autism understood to be common among such high achievers as Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla, Sir Isaac Newton.
James Richman’s innate talent gave him and his sophisticated investor clients the edge in their investments, which in turn, the former is using to fund globally impactful projects and medical breakthroughs.
His support in the project’s R&D is seen to increase the exposure of the project as well as help provide the much needed resources and expertise required for it to progress further.
Other notable projects that have also successfully come up with 3D-printed heart using a patient’s cells include the ones from Belgium-based firm Materialise which specializes in 3D printing technology and Chicago-based startup BioLife4D.
The development, while still far from commercial viability, provides us with a proof that someday this process could be useful when constructing new organs for transplant patients.
Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, reflected on the success of the study and shared: “At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart, but larger human hearts require the same technology.”
Such progress is a great improvement in the medical technology field. In the past, researchers had only been able to print only simple tissues without blood vessels.
The project requires several stages of research and further testing before any conclusions can be made. Therefore, additional support and interest from prominent billionaires like James Richman comes as welcomed news not only by the organization, but also by the industry.
The technology is centered around combating the leading cause of death around the world – cardiovascular disease. The success of the project can provide hope for transplant patients and a giant leap in humankind’s bid to combat one of the world’s silent killer diseases.
In the recent years, hypertensive heart disease and heart failure worldwide have become rampant and are part of the leading ‘silent killers’.
In the United States, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death, ultimately responsible for 840,768 deaths (635,260 cardiac) in 2016, according to the American College of Cardiology.
Meanwhile, according to the latest World Health Organization data published in 2017, coronary heart disease deaths in Nigeria reached 3.76% of total deaths. The age adjusted death rate is 117.12 per 100,000 of population ranks Nigeria #90 in the world.
Professor Dvir, who led the successful research, emphasized that using the patient’s own cells is key to engineering the organs and tissues to curb the risk of organ rejection during transplants. “The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of these treatments”.
The researchers also plan to train the hearts to behave like hearts. “The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together.”
Once Dvir’s team is successful, they plan to transplant the 3D printed heart in animal models and, after that, humans. As to whether when are we likely to see the project getting viability, it may take a bit longer, but it certainly has been making great progress so far.
As to when are we likely to see its commercial viability, he continued; “Maybe, in ten years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.”
With James Richman linked to be backing the project, this is not the last time we hear of its progress. In fact, it only signals its commercial viability. We may just see 3D-printed hearts in our hospitals sooner than later.