Sadly, heart disease remains the number one killer in the developed world. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women.
What about cancer? Cardiovascular diseases actually surpass the annual mortality rate of all types of cancer combined.
Patients in the late stages of heart failure or severe coronary artery disease can be considered candidates for heart transplants after other treatments have been attempted. But only around 5,000 heart transplants occur worldwide each year.
For those patients fortunate enough to get on a heart transplant list and receive a new heart from a donor, the story isn’t over. While conventional heart transplant success rates have improved in recent years, there is still a significant risk of rejection and subsequent failure of the organ.
Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) is a common cause of failure in transplanted hearts, especially over the longer term. CAV is a type of coronary artery disease that can develop quickly as the patient’s immune system reacts to the transplanted heart. The only definitive treatment for CAV is to receive a second transplant, which may be an option for only a small percentage of patients.
CAV underscores a very fundamental challenge with conventional organ transplant methods. A patient’s natural immune system will attempt to reject a heart received from a donor. That’s because the genetic makeup of a donor organ does not identically match the patient.
Thus, rejection must be carefully fought from day one in any conventional heart transplant scenario. In fact, a transplant patient typically begins a regimen of immunosuppressant drugs the day of the transplant and will then remain on immunosuppressant therapy, and deal with their side effects, the rest of their life.
But thanks to recent breakthroughs, it doesn’t have to be this way.
BIOLIFE4D is developing a new 3D bioprinting process with the intent of taking the risk of immune system rejection out of the heart transplant equation. The company’s groundbreaking approach will converge recent breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, adult stem cell biology, 3D printing techniques and computing technology.
How? BIOLIFE4D plans to create a patient-specific, fully functioning heart through 3D bioprinting using the patient’s own cells – made possible thanks to a scientific research breakthrough around adult stem cells that occurred in 2006.
Since the new heart is built using a patient’s own cells, it’s a precise match, thus eliminating the risk of rejection and requirement for immunosuppressant therapy for the heart transplant patient.
Once developed, the BIOLIFE4D process has the potential to be a game changer – lifesaving technology that ultimately gives patients the gift of time.