BY ADELE PETERS
Inside a lab that will open in a couple of months in Chicago, a biotech startup will soon begin perfecting the process of 3D-printing human hearts that could eventually be used in transplants.
“What this is set up to do is to make a patient-specific, fully functioning heart that’s viable for transplant, using the patient’s own cells,” says Stephen Morris, founding partner and CEO of the startup, Biolife4D.
The process combines several steps that have been developed by various researchers in university labs. First, a patient’s heart will be scanned using an MRI machine to create a digital image of the heart’s shape and size. Next, doctors will take a blood sample. Using techniques that have been developed over the last decade, the blood cells will be converted into stem cells–and then converted a second time into heart cells. Those new heart cells will be combined with nutrients in a hydrogel to make a “bio-ink” that can be used in a specialized 3D printer.
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