3D Printing a Human Heart


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FRESH Certified Bio Printing from LulzBot.

The LulzBot Bio is the first FRESH™ Certified 3D printer in the world.

3D Printing a Human Heart 

Bioprinting has a bright future as the solution to the shortage of organs for donation.  Research has quickly come close to 3D printing actual organs that could be transplanted into a  human. In this issue specifically, research related with CMU, or Carnegie Mellon University,  showed that their unique bioprinting setup and procedure was able to print a full-sized heart  made out of alginate. Overall, FRESH displayed that these same results are possible with the  LulzBot Bio 3D printer.

CMU FRESH 3D Printed heart process


Scan, Convert, and Bioprint! 

Bioprinting is a vast advancement of 3D printing that uses biomaterials making it  possible to print soft materials that can resemble tissues. Scanning, segmentation, and printing  are the three steps in bioprinting. The first step involves obtaining a 3D scan of the heart that  contains several slices. A computerized tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging  (MRI), a transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), or a transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)  are specific scan types that can do this. They give high contrast, low noise, adjacent structures,  and high spatial resolution. The second step, segmentation, comprises of creating patient-specific  areas within the organ for printing. A standard tessellation language (STL) file is made from the  scan and eventually exported into a computer-aided design (CAD) software. Through exporting,  it is important to smooth the structures and clear up any unneeded data from the raw imaging.  The last step is determining the print path and performing the actual print. There are numerous  printers used in the bioprinting field. They range from stereolithography, powder bed fusion,  material extrusion, and material jetting.


FRESH™ Explained 

Carnegie Mellon University gave us a FRESH approach to their newly made heart.  FRESH stands for freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels. Precisely, this  strategy supports crosslinking with pH changes, divalent cations, and UV light. It also lessens the  effects of gravitational forces and creates the ability to print soft materials without losing their  structure. The material that was printed was 4% low-infill alginate bioink. With previous tests,  this proved to show the best strength against tension. Basically, they used their 3D printer to  extrude alginate out of the syringe, through a 6-inch, 12-gauge needle, and into a container full  of LifeSupport hydrogel. This print took on the shape of the original heart scan while being  suspended in the support bath. Additionally, it is important to note that the LulzBot Bio is the  first FRESH certified 3D bioprinter in the world.


FRESH 3D printed heart from FluidForm

The Future of Organ Engineering 

Ultimately, their print was a success! They constructed two whole hearts and one-half  heart to visualize the interior cavities. It was found that there was no change in fidelity or  integrity of the two full hearts. Also, it wasn’t measured exactly, but the hearts appeared to be the  same size as the original scan. Other prints also portrayed that the vessels work and were able to  transport blood-like glycerol. This was the first full-size human heart printed using FRESH. However, there is still some work to do before we are qualified to transplant 3D printed organs. The presented research established the capabilities of printing with FRESH and alginate bioink.  The printed heart wasn’t fully functioning and is still required to anastomose to host vessels  before it can be transplanted.


LulzBot Bio FRESH certified 3D printer

Although, the FRESH hydrogel was able to suspend a 3D heart made of soft alginate which resembles real cardiovascular tissue. Being FRESH certified, the  LulzBot Bio is fit to construct the same full dimensional heart made of 4% low-infill alginate. Overall, this research confirmed FRESH as a useful strategy in discovering how to 3D print  organs in turn aiding to the limited supply of donated organs.

See the LulzBot BIO product page! Click HERE

About LulzBot

Your Imagination Built by LulzBot®. LulzBot was founded in January 2011 in Loveland, Colorado. In 2019, LulzBot became part of FAME 3D and is currently headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, where we develop, manufacture, and support the award-winning line of LulzBot 3D Printers for rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, educators and hobbyists. For more information, visit LulzBot.com.