Heart Disease

Bioprinting the Heart

Posted on 9 March 2020

Heart failure is a major global medical problem and the majority of times requires heart transplantation. There are currently more than 6.2 million patients in the US with heart failure, and heart failure accounted for 78 356 mortalities in 2016.

Prevalence of heart failure for adults ≥20 years by sex and age (NHANES, 2013–2016). Source: National Center for Health Statistics and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Despite heart transplantation being an effective therapy, there are currently two major issues with heart transplantation: the number of donor organs available for transplant is always significantly lower than the number of patients who require a heart transplant. The patients, who do receive a heart transplant require life-long immune suppression therapy, significantly reducing their quality of life.

Until recently, Bioprinting an organ as complex as the human heart was viewed as science fiction. A recent report from APL Bioengineering into the industrial perspective of this emerging field gives an up-to-date account of the current technology is, and the challenges that it faces.

Process for bioprinting human hearts

Cardiac 3D bio-printing has the potential to hold solutions to both of the main problems of current heart transplantation. Once perfected, bio-printing will not be reliant on matched human donors. By deriving the new cardiomyocytes (the cells needed to build the new heart) from the individuals own body, the risk of an immune response to the new heart will be dramatically reduced, meaning that immune suppression therapy will not be required.

Recent advances in the field of 3D bioprinting have provided a clear pathway for the future, demonstrating the tremendous potential bioprinting has in developing functional organs for clinical transplantation. 

3D bioprinting and its potential impact on cardiac failure treatment: An industry perspective. APL Bioeng. 2020;4(1):010903.


  1. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Vol. 139, No. 10. doi: org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
  2. Birla RK, Williams SK. 3D bioprinting and its potential impact on cardiac failure treatment: An industry perspective. APL Bioeng. 2020;4(1):010903. Published 2020 Feb 18. doi:10.1063/1.5128371
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