'Pumps as good as the real thing': MIT creates 3D-printed hearts

MIT engineers have developed 3D-printed hearts that are the same size, shape and pump the same blood volume as the original — and are hopeful they can be a significant innovation in cardiology.

"All hearts are different," Luca Rosalia, a graduate student in the MIT-Harvard Program in Health Sciences and Technology, said in a Feb. 22 MIT news release. "There are massive variations, especially when patients are sick. The advantage of our system is that we can re-create not just the form of a patient's heart, but also its function in both physiology and disease."

Made of soft, flexible polymer, the 3D-printed hearts can be controlled to replicate the patient's blood-pumping ability. Replicas start by converting medical images of a patient's heart into a 3D computer model. The printing process can also replicate a patient's aorta.

The researchers hope physicians can use the printed replicas in the future to treat heart failure. The replicas could also be used in research to study therapies for heart disease, the release said.

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