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Researchers used 3D printing to create a soft artificial heart for the first time

Researchers used 3D printing to create a soft artificial heart for the first time


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New technology enables the production of improved artificial organs
Swiss researchers have managed to create a soft artificial heart with the help of a 3D printer. So far, existing artificial hearts have had many disadvantages. The new manufacturing technique enables complex organs such as the human heart to be created with the help of 3-pressure. These organs work better and are similar in function to real organs of the human body.

The scientists at ETH Zurich have successfully created an artificial heart with the help of a 3D printer. The new soft artificial heart should come as close as possible to the natural model. The doctors published the results of their investigation in the journal "Artificial Organs".

What problems have artificial hearts made so far?
Of course there are reasons why nature should be the model for new artificial hearts. For example, the mechanics of previously created artificial hearts are very susceptible to interference. In addition, the artificial hearts produced so far have no pulse. The consequences for the body are still unclear, the scientists explain. At best, a newly developed heart should have approximately the same size, shape and function as a real human heart, the authors add. Another problem with hearts produced to date is that metal and plastic mechanisms are often difficult to integrate into the tissue. In addition, there may even be damage to the blood picture.

Swiss researchers make the first soft artificial heart
A small team at ETH, led by PhD student Nicholas Cohrs, has now created the first soft artificial heart. The new heart also has a pump mechanism, in which the silicone valves pump like a real heart, the researchers say. The mechanism works similar to a real heart. A chamber lies between the so-called ventricles, which fills and empties. The surgeons add a pumping effect that simulates the muscle contraction of the human heart.

How is the artificial heart structured?
The heart was created by so-called 3D printing. This technique allowed the scientists to create a complex internal structure. Soft and flexible material is used for this. The whole artificial heart is a single part, so the authors explain that there are no problems with how different internal mechanisms fit together. The only exceptions are at the entrances and exits, where the blood enters and exits. The newly produced heart weighs 390 grams. It has a volume of 679 cm³. As with a real heart, the artificial heart consists of a right and a left half of the heart, the experts explain.

So far, the heart produced can only be loaded for a very short time
In various tests, the doctors were able to determine that the soft artificial heart worked well. The artificial heart was able to successfully pump a fluid similar to human blood. However, there is still a problem with the new artificial heart. So far, the material has only endured about 3,000 blows. This corresponds to a running time of about half an hour to three quarters of an hour, the authors explain. After half an hour, the material is damaged by the load.

The newly developed heart is the basis for a new concept
The aim of the research work was not to produce a directly implantable heart, it was much more about thinking in a completely new direction in the development, say the experts from Switzerland. The resilience of the material and the performance must be significantly improved in the future. The manufactured heart is proof that the new manufacturing concept works, the scientists add. "As a mechanical engineer, I never thought that I would ever hold a soft, artificial heart in my hands," explains Anastasios Petrou. "I am now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts," added the expert. (as)

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