Every ten minutes, another American is added to the national transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Natural hearts, in particular, are difficult to keep up with demand.
But a new artificial heart that's made of implantable silicone and can be 3D printed might help relieve that waiting list, CNN reported. Engineers from ETH Zurich have developed and tested the mold for the heart, which can mimic the movement and blood-pumping of a real heart using pressurized air.
However, it can only withstand about 3,000 beats, or about 45 minutes of being "live," designboom reported.
The heart isn't exactly like that of a real one; it's missing atria and the septum that naturally separates the right and left ventricle. It weighs 13.8 ounces, which is a little larger than the average man's.
As the engineers told CNN, 3D printing is "a versatile technique" that's especially good for "detailed geometries." Another advantage to 3D printing is that you can quickly and easily copy a patient's clinical image.
Typically, people 3D print human parts that don't have to move or beat, such as bones.
It's going to take more refining to get this heart into the bodies of those who need it most, but other cardiologists are already calling it "pretty impressive," according to CNN.
"This was simply a feasibility test," Nicholas Cors, one of the developers said, according to designboom. "Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts."
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters, Francois Lenoir