3D printing the human heart

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has published a paper in Science that details a new technique allowing anyone to 3D bioprint tissue scaffolds out of collagen, the major structural protein in the human body. This first-of-its-kind method brings the field of tissue engineering one step closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, adult human heart. The technique, known as Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH), has allowed the researchers to overcome many challenges associated with existing 3D bioprinting methods, and to achieve unprecedented resolution and fidelity using soft and living materials.


This method is truly exciting for the field of 3D bioprinting because it allows collagen scaffolds to be printed at the large scale of human organs. And it is not limited to collagen, as a wide range of other soft gels including fibrin, alginate, and hyaluronic acid can be 3D bioprinted using the FRESH technique, providing a robust and adaptable tissue engineering platform. Importantly, the researchers also developed open-source designs so that nearly anyone, from medical labs to high school science classes, can build and have access to low-cost, high-performance 3D bioprinters.

Looking forward, FRESH has applications in many aspects of regenerative medicine, from wound repair to organ bioengineering, but it is just one piece of a growing biofabrication field. “Really what we’re talking about is the convergence of technologies,” says Feinberg. “Not just what my lab does in bioprinting, but also from other labs and small companies in the areas of stem cell science, machine learning, and computer simulation, as well as new 3D bioprinting hardware and software.”