Heart disease affects millions of American every year and is responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other health disorder. About half of those diagnosed with heart disease die within the first five years from diagnosis. Aside from the casualties, heart disease is reported to cost the U.S. about $30 billion a year. The disease occurs when the heart muscle weakens which prevents the sufficient amount of blood to be pumped throughout the body. There is some good news, however. Because of breakthroughs in medicine and medical knowledge, being diagnosed with heart disease is no longer a death sentence. Changing habits such as quitting smoking, exercising more, maintaining a healthy diet and weight are all things that can help prevent long term damage.

Changing these habits may not be the only preventatives as a research team compiled of individuals from the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Minnesota (UM) is revealing. The team is working to aide those who have suffered from a heart attack in minimizing the damage caused by the attack that could potentially lead to heart disease. Headed by Jianyi Zhang, UAB’s chair of the department of biomedical engineering, and Brenda Ogle, PhD at UM, the research team explored the potential for growing engineered heart tissue to help boost muscle regeneration following a heart attack that would be impossible to to do by the heart itself. They did so by using a 3D printed one-micron-resolution scaffold which served as a scaffold for turning human cells into a heart tissue muscle patch that beats in rhythm with the heart. Trials of this incredible innovation were conducted on mice that had suffered from heart attacks. The researched observed that the patch dramatically improved the functionality of each mices’ heart. As the research team concluded,

“The cardiac muscle patches produced for this report may represent an important step toward the clinical use of 3D-printing technology. To our knowledge, this is the first time modulated raster scanning has ever been successfully used to control the fabrication of a tissue-engineered scaffold, and consequently, our results are particularly relevant for applications that require the fibrillar and mesh-like structures present in cardiac tissue.”

A diagram of the 3D printed patch created by the research team

3D printers have the ability produce revolutionary technologies, such as this patch, with unmatched accuracy. This makes 3D printers ideal fabrication tools, as the medical field has already proven its their usage of 3D printers to create tissue used for implants. While this research team’s work may have produced the first tissue scaffolding of this kind, the capabilities are undoubtedly being recognized in the medical industry, now more than ever before.

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