ME Professor and Postdoc 3D Print Functioning Human Heart Pump

Illustration of 3D printing a human heart pump

ME Professor Michael McAlpine and postdoc Kaiyan Qiu are part of a team that 3D printed a functioning human heart pump. Yes, you read that right. This groundbreaking study was published in Circulation Research, a publication of the American Heart Association, and is the first successful result in a long line of attempts to 3D print cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells.

So what did the team do differently? They flipped the process. “At first, we tried 3D printing cardiomyocytes, and we failed, too,” said Brenda Ogle, the lead researcher on the study and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. “So with our team’s expertise in stem cell research and 3D printing, we decided to try a new approach. We optimized the specialized ink made from extracellular matrix proteins, combined the ink with human stem cells and used the ink-plus-cells to 3D print the chambered structure. The stem cells were expanded to high cell densities in the structure first, and then we differentiated them to the heart muscle cells.”