Scientists develop silicone heart using 3D printing

Scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have managed to create a silicone heart that works and pumps blood like a biological human heart. The only problem is that it doesn’t have the stamina of a real one.

The artificial heart was developed by a team of researchers led by Nichols Cohrs, a doctoral student at ETH. And a study on the artificial heart’s effectiveness was published in Artificial Organs by a group of researchers from the Product Development Group Zurich.

The artificial heart, made of silicone, was built using a 3D-printer. It weighs about 390 grams and has a volume of 679 cubic centimeters. Similar to a real heart, it has a right and left ventricle, which are separated by an additional chamber, not the septum. The chamber is inflated and deflated by pressurized air that allows fluid to pump from the blood chambers. Ideally, if the technology was reliable enough, it could keep patients alive who are waiting for heart transplants.

“Our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient's own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function," Cohrs said in a statement.

Results of the study showed that the artificial heart is comparable to a real one, except it only lasts for about 3,000 beats, which correlates to about 30 or 45 minutes of life. Once the artificial heart beats 3,000 times, the material can no longer handle the strain.

"This was simply a feasibility test,” Cohrs said. “Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

In future studies, the researchers hope to make a more resilient artificial heart model that could sustain a real patient’s life.