New 'FRESH' Collagen-based 3D Printing to Fix Broken Hearts

Researchers have developed an impressive new way of printing 3D collagen anatomical structures.
Fabienne Lang

Sometimes we just need an extra bit of care for our broken hearts. Scientifically speaking, a new and exciting advancement in 3D printing could be the answer to mending broken hearts. 


Researchers have developed a FRESH way of printing 3D complicated anatomical structures, such as a heart or parts of a heart, and it's made out of collagen. Collagen is particularly useful in our human bodies as its a primary building block in many of our tissues. 

3D printing structures in biomedics

Closely mimicking cardiac tissue functions and forms, these new collagen-based 3D printing structures are very similar to our actual human hearts. 

Biomedically-speaking, 3D printing has been a tricky subject to navigate. With limiting 3D printing techniques, such as low print resolution and poor tissue fidelity, the uses for this method have been limited. 

New 'FRESH' Collagen-based 3D Printing to Fix Broken Hearts
3D Printer. Source: ZMorph3D/Pixabay

Because of these limitations, printing highly sought-after materials, such as collagen or living cells has been difficult in this field.

This is why this new research, led by Andrew Lee, is particularly interesting.

What is FRESH?

The team of researchers created what's called the FRESH approach back in 2015.  Since then, they've worked on the approach, improving and honing its parameters. 

They have now re-created the remodeled version of FRESH, and it's called the 'freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels.' As that's a bit of a mouthful, a simple FRESH v2.0 version of the name is more commonly used. 

This FRESH v2.0 is their 3D printing biotechnique.

New 'FRESH' Collagen-based 3D Printing to Fix Broken Hearts
Heart organ with intricate valves and ventricles. Source: burlesonmatthew/Pixabay

How does FRESH work? 

It uses the fast changes in pH levels to create extruded collagen and solidify it with precise control. 

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This method is able to create complex structural and functional tissue structures, which can, in turn, be embedded with living cells or complicated vasculature at dimensions as small as 10 micrometers

Lee and his team used this method to create parts of the human heart made entirely of collagen and human cells, via a 3D printer. They even included cardiac tissue, ventricles, and a neonatal heart. 

According to the authors, their 3D printed creations accurately reprinted patient-specific MRI anatomical structures. 

This is indeed a promising method for repairing broken hearts around the world. 

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