A team of researchers from ETH Zurich used a 3D printer to create an impressive beating silicone heart. Though they still have a few tweaks to make, the collective effort of the researchers could potentially be a revolutionary tool in the future.

Similar In Form And Function

In collaboration with researchers from Product Development Group Zurich, researchers from the ETH Functional Materials Laboratory were able to develop a silicone version of a human heart that actually looks and beats like the real thing.

Unlike other heart and blood pumps with mechanical parts that have various disadvantages, the team opted to use the human heart as a model to create an artificial heart that is as close as possible to the actual heart on function and form. Impressively, they were able to deliver such a feat with the help of a 3D printer.

The heart itself weighs 390 grams and a volume of 679 cm³. It is primarily made from silicone, and has an internal structure that mimic the complex structure of the human heart. It has both the right and left ventricle that are separated, not by a septum, but by a chamber which acts as the heart's muscle.

Upon testing, the researchers found that the silicone heart does in fact move and beat like a human heart. However, it could only beat for up to 3,000 times or equivalent to about 30 to 45 minutes. After 3,000 beats, the silicone is no longer able to take the strain and begins to accumulate damages.

Still, the team has opened a new way of looking at developing artificial organs. Naturally, the material's strength needs to be enhanced greatly to create a better functioning artificial heart that can be used over long periods of time.

The result of the team's experiment is published in the journal Artificial Organs

Artificial Organs

Earlier this year, scientists from Spain were able to develop a hardware that is capable of printing functional human skin. From the development of this artificial skin, transplantation and skin testing for new products could be done in an entirely new way.

Similarly, other methods of developing artificial organs have also surfaced such as in March when researchers were able to successfully utilize spinach leaves to create actual beating human heart tissue.

Not everyone is impressed with these developments, though. In April, a team of researchers presented their development of an artificial womb, which was created in an attempt to help premature babies survive. While the development was quite impressive as they were able to test the device successfully with eight lambs, many were also concerned about the ethical implications of their invention.

Although public opinion about these developments may be conflicting, it is safe to say that researchers will continue to try newer and newer things and methods to help address the gaps in modern medicine.

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