Heart transplants that do not require a human donor are a step closer after scientists 3D-printed a soft, artificial heart made of silicone.
It closely imitates a human heart 'in form and function', according to its Swiss developers.
Heart disease remains the number one killer worldwide, causing 17.3 million deaths each year – a problem exacerbated by a global shortage of heart donors.
A custom-made artificial heart would be an invaluable medical advancement that could save countless lives.
However, scientists still have one problem to conquer: the prototype currently lasts for only around 3,000 beats – or 30 to 45 minutes.
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A prototype 3D-printed silicone heart closely imitates the real thing 'in form and function'
The researchers behind the artificial heart, from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, are working on further improving the performance of their new invention.
'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 functon,' said Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student on the team.
Contracts like a human heart
Weighing 90 grams (13.8 ounces), the silicone heart is slightly heavier but around the same size as a human heart.
It features left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an extra chamber that drives the external pump – replacing the muscle contraction of the human heart.
Pressurised air inflates and deflates this third chamber, designed to pump blood through the ventricles – during testing, a liquid with the same viscosity of blood was used.
Scientists hope the invention will one day replace mechanical pumps – used while people recover from heart failure or wait for a donated heart to become