MIT scientists developed a 3D-printed heart that works like a real one
MIT engineers' newly developed robotic heart will help doctors adjust therapies to individuals' unique heart structures and functions. The personalized 3D-printed heart can control and imitate the patient's capacity to pump blood.
As explained by MIT, the procedure begins with the researchers converting medical images of a patient's heart into a three-dimensional computer model, which they then 3D print with a polymer-based ink.
A precise replica of the patient's heart is created as a soft, flexible shell. The team can also use this method to print a patient's aorta, a significant artery that transports blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
The team has created sleeves akin to blood pressure cuffs that wrap over a printed heart and aorta to simulate the heart's pumping function. Each sleeve's interior has a pattern that is similar to bubble wrap. Researchers can adjust the outflowing air to rhythmically expand the bubbles in the sleeve and constrict the heart, simulating the pumping motion of the heart when the sleeve is attached to a pneumatic system.
"All hearts are different," says Luca Rosalia, a graduate student in the MIT-Harvard Program in Health Sciences and Technology. "There are massive variations, especially when patients are sick. The advantage of our system is that we can recreate not just the form of a patient's heart, but also its function in both physiology and disease."
Advantages of 3D printing
For the current study, the scientists used 3D printing to create personalized copies of real patients' hearts. Scientists employed a polymer-based ink that, after printing and curing, can contract and expand much like a real beating heart.
The researchers used the medical scans of 15 patients with aortic stenosis as their primary data. The scientists used each patient's photos to create a three-dimensional computer model of the left ventricle and aorta, the heart's primary pumping chamber. They used a 3D printer to create a soft, anatomically correct shell of the ventricle and vasculature using this model as input.
The group also created sleeves to go around the printed forms. They customized the pockets on each sleeve so that when wrapped around their respective forms and connected to a small air-pumping system, the sleeves could be tuned separately to contract and constrict the printed models realistically.
The team wanted to replicate some of the interventions a few patients had to see if the printed heart and vessel responded similarly. Finally, the team compared implants of various sizes to see which would produce the best fit and flow. They hope that in the future, practitioners will be able to accomplish this for their patients.
The study was published in Science Robotics.
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