Mending Hearts – On-demand Bioprinted Patient-specific Heart Tissue
Dr. Carmine Gentile’s lab in Sydney is developing bioprinted heart tissue on demand with patient-specific cells to minimize the risk of transplant rejection.
The leading cause of death globally is heart disease
There is currently no way to repair damaged heart muscles from heart attacks, so many patients around the world wait on long heart transplant lists. Even for the lucky few who find a matching donor, there are more hurdles (i.e., organ viability, geographical distance, immune rejection). Therefore, heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 17.9 million lives are lost each year to cardiovascular diseases.
“We are using the patient’s own stem cells so that there’s no risk of rejection.”
— Dr. Carmine Gentile, whose lab at UTS is working on patient-specific bioprinted heart patches
Bioprinting heart patches
Dr. Carmine Gentile, leader of the Cardiovascular Regeneration Group at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), announced in 2020 that his lab had “developed a technology that can 3D model and bioprint personalized hearts for transplantation, using the patient’s own stem cells so that there’s no risk of rejection.” Specifically, the technology identified the optimal conditions for cells to create blood vessels within bioprinted heart patches.
In the 2020 study, a mouse’s cells were bioprinted on CELLINK’s BIO X™ using an alginate-gelatin hydrogel. These bioprinted cardiac cells were allowed to culture for 7 to 14 days until they developed into beating patches of heart tissue. During open-heart surgery on the mouse from which the cells originated, the vascularized heart patch was transplanted to a damaged area of the heart. The transplant was meant to test the safety of the bioprinted patches and to ensure they had a positive effect on heart function, and both were verified.
Optimizing 3D bioprinted heart patches
“This could be a game changer,” says Chris Roche, a cardiothoracic surgical trainee and PhD candidate at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) who co-authored the 2020 study with Dr. Gentile, his PhD advisor. In collaboration with Dr. Gentile’s lab at UTS and with support from the University of Sydney, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Heart Research Australia, Roche’s doctoral thesis seeks to further optimize these vascularized heart patches as well as the transplanting procedure. His long-term goal is to one day reach clinical trials on human patients. “It would mean on-demand replacement of heart cells after a heart attack with no chance of rejection, less risk of heart failure and, importantly, no waiting list for a heart transplant, ” says Roche optimistically.
Creating the future of medicine
“We know patients are in urgent need of a safe alternative to heart transplants,” says Dr. Gentile. “We’re working hard to further develop our technology and make sure it can be available in the shortest time possible.” As Dr. Gentile’s lab continues focusing on the in vivo testing of the vascularized heart patches and fine-tuning the lab’s protocols, one thing is certain. CELLINK will be there to support this enterprising lab’s work, allowing them to one day bioprint human heart tissue for patient-specific regenerative medicine and, thus, create the future of medicine.
Roche CD, Brereton JR, Ashton AW, Jackson C, Gentile C. Current challenges in three-dimensional bioprinting heart tissues for cardiac surgery. European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. 2020; 58(3): 500–510. DOI:10.1093/ejcts/ezaa093.
Roche CD, Gentile C. Transplantation of a 3D bioprinted patch in a murine model of myocardial infarction. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2020; 163: e61675. DOI:10.3791/61675.
Roche CD, Sharma P, Ashton AW, Jackson C, Xue M, Gentile C. Printability, durability, contractility and vascular network formation in 3D bioprinted cardiac endothelial cells using alginate–gelatin hydrogels. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. 2021; 9: 110. DOI:10.3389/fbioe.2021.636257.