The Times of Israel (TTI) reported last Monday that a group of Tel Aviv shoppers at a fruit and vegetable stand suddenly stopped what they were doing to watch a television news anchor announce that a medical breakthrough of a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) had made a 3D-printed heart with the patient’s own cells and biological material.
Israeli’s are proud of this scientific breakthrough announced in a peer-reviewed journal, Advanced Science. Until now researchers and scientists have only been able to 3D-print sample tissues but now they have printed an entire heart including cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.
The 3D-printed heart is about the size of s grape. It does not yet work. It needs to grow in a bioreactor which will coax it into contracting synchronously through a series of electrical and mechanical signals. The 3D-printed grape sized heart is about the size of a rabbit’s heart.
Scientists hope that they will eventually be able to 3D-print a human size heart but
Prof. Tal Dvir, who is the lead on the lead and with TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, says that it will take at least a decade for 3D-printed human hearts to take place in hospitals.
When that is possible, patients will no longer have to wait for a new heart or any other organ from a donor. They will also forego any rejection of the implanted heart because it will be created from their own cell tissues nor will they have to worry about Graft Versus Host disease or having to take immunosuppressants.
But there are ethical questions and issues that are being raised. Dr. Rabbi Ira Bedzow, who is the director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College, told TTI that there will be people who will be esthetic over a new discovery as well as those who will be concerned with intended consequences.
Bedzow says there are concerns as far as the categorizingof 3D-printed hearts as body parts or as medical devices. If they are categorized as organs according to the law in most countries they will not be able to be sold and no one owns them. If this continues to be the norm, it would keep the cost low and prevent other abuses.
But if 3D-printed hearts are categorized as medical devices, they will be owned by the patient and patented and the owner could charge a huge amount making it unaffordable except to the rich unless it’s covered by insurance.
There are also questions on genetic rights. There are also questions regarding the creation of ‘super hearts’ and people. There are questions and issues regarding genetic engineering.All of these questions and issues and more need to be addressed over the next decade before 3D-printed hearts are made available to peopl