Bioprinted Valves That Grow: How 3D Printing is Transforming Heart Surgery

Technology is transforming the field of cardiac surgery.

At Henry Ford Innovation Institute, physicians are using 3D printing to model exact replicas of hearts to allow surgeons to explore a patient’s specific anatomy before planning out treatment and surgery based on each person’s individualized needs and risks.

Using the same technology, surgeons are also now capable of printing prosthetic replacement valves, allowing each patient to have surgically implanted a valve that looks and functions just like the diseased valve that is replaced.

Yet, while these artificial valves offer many advantages, one researcher at Cornell University is taking 3D printing to the next level by bio-printing heart valves that are capable of growing with the patient.

Dr. Jonathan Butcher says these 3D printed, bio-valves offer many advantages for the patient and are the future of medicine.

“3-D bioprinting makes it possible to design biological tissues from scratch that contain many of the natural geometry, stiffness, and biological cues that are needed for full function,” Butcher said.  “I hope that people use this technology in the future to target a higher level of tissue complexity, like glandular and highly vascularized and innervated functional tissues.”

Photo Credit: bio-printed heart valve/Cornell University