TEL AVIV, Israel - Researchers in Israel unveiled the world's first 3D printed heart created from a patient's own cells.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University produced the 3D heart, which is about the size of a cherry, the Agence France-Presse reported.
It marked "the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers," Professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University, who is lead researcher of the project, told AFP reporters.
The researchers published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal, Advanced Science.
A biopsy of fatty tissue was taken from patients to ultimately create a patient-specific 3D heart, according to the study.
"This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process, these materials serve as the bio-inks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3-D printing of complex tissue models," Dvir told the Jeruselum Post.
As of now, heart transplantation is the only treatment for patients with end-stage heart failure, the study said.
The scientists told AFP that many challenges still remain before the 3D printed hearts would be available as transplants for patients. The cells of the 3D heart are able to contract, but are not yet able to pump, scientists told reporters.
Dvir told AFP that the researchers hope to transplant them into animal models in about a year.
The hope is that within "10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely," Dvir told the Jerusalem Post.
Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Twitter that it was "great news for world medicine."
Tel Aviv University said in a statement obtained by AFP that the research was a "major medical breakthrough."
"We hope @FacultyTau will now be able to save even more lives," the university tweeted.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.