Printing Hearts from Seaweed!

Printing Hearts from Seaweed!

Printing hearts from Seaweed- well this certainly  caught  my interest.  I, like many Nurses, are no doubt familiar with Alginate wound care products. So I was  intrigued to learn the potential for the creation of cardiac valves using alginate in 3D printers.Albert Liberski a tissue engineer  from Sidra Medical and Research Center in Qatar  has reviewed the latest developments in 3D printing as a potential tool for constructing heart valves from alginate1. You can read the full article published in QScience here>>

In part the article identified the following

‘Cardiac surgeons sometimes use an extract from brown seaweed, called alginate, to treat heart failure. It is injected into heart muscle, acting like a scaffold, to give the muscle a chance to rebuild itself. Alginate is a carbohydrate made of sugar molecules bound to each other. It has been found to be an attractive bioscaffolding material because it does not invite the formation of potentially life-threatening blood clots.’

Heart valves are currently replaced with one of two kinds of valves. Manufactured mechanical valves are long lasting but require lifelong use of drugs that prevent the blood from clotting. Tissue valves do not require the use of these drugs, but they degrade over time and must be replaced every five to seven years. Researchers are investigating the use of biodegradable scaffolding materials to construct heart valves upon which human cells can grow and remodel the structure, resulting in a functional valve that’s able to grow with the patient. Alginate-based scaffolds are an attractive option for this purpose. Researchers are studying various techniques that might be used to build these alginate scaffolds.

3D printing is advantageous since it enables the adjustment of the shape of the valve to the individual needs of patients. But the technique is still in its infancy, . One team of researchers used 3D printing to make a valve using alginate, but its resolution was low, the process slow, and the valve was not functional. The team also found problems incorporating the cells into the valve that would later grow and form tissue.

Liberski’s team managed to overcome some of the previous limitations by fabricating a functional valve in only ten minutes with cells incorporated properly into its structure. “This puts alginate-based heart valve tissue engineering on ‘fast track’. This new approach demonstrated that 3D printing should be considered as part of a complementary process in constructing heart valves rather than a singular superior one. Research in this area is limited and so there is much room for further investigation.

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