Whether you are reaching out to us via email or through social media, or getting in touch with us directly, at BIOLIFE4D one of the most popular questions we get asked is Why the heart? Why not a lung or kidney?
One reason we are focused on the heart is because for someone to receive a life-saving donor heart transplant someone else has to die. With hearts there are no living donors. While doctors can take a piece of someone else’s lung or kidney, and use that for transplant, because of the heart’s vital role in our body the same can’t be done for the heart.
Another reason is the incredible lack of supply of donor hearts for transplants. While cardiovascular disease takes the lives of one in every three people in every developed nation across the world, only about 5,000 life-saving donor heart transplants take place globally each year. Everyone else whose life could potentially have been saved just dies, without hope.
And for those few that are lucky enough to receive a donor heart transplant while the procedure will save your life it is not a cure-all. Because of the associated challenges of a donor heart transplant, including potential rejection, it is more accurate to say that a donor heart recipient has essentially traded one condition for another. Unfortunately, half of those lucky enough to even receive a donor heart transplant may still die within 10 years of transplantation due to complications linked to using a donor organ.
In addition to addressing the huge global need for a bioengineered alternative to a donor organ, focusing on the heart also allows us to meet milestones that will have a major impact on humanity on our way to bioprinting a full sized, functioning human heart. We have already demonstrated the ability to 3D bioprint grafts, cardiac patches and heart valves that could significantly improve the quality of life for people suffering from early-stage heart challenges. And our next milestone, our mini-heart, could be used by pharmaceutical companies to run cardiac toxicity screenings as well as to provide better predictive results of new drugs, therapies, and vaccines. We all recognize how incredibly important that could be given the global race for viable therapies and vaccines for COVID-19.
So “Why the Heart”? It’s simple. By concentrating our efforts on the heart, we hope to be able to make the largest impact possible on the global community, improving the quality of life and saving the lives of countless individuals worldwide.
Stay safe & be well,