A team of bioengineers at Harvard Wyss Institute has developed a "heart on a chip" that can be used to test drugs. Interestingly, the heart is "manufactured using a 3D printer and 6 bio-inks. It is the first time that a 3D printer is used to print an organ.
By reprogramming the printer it would be possibile to print different organs that are based on muscle cells. Also important is that the use of a 3D printer makes possibile to manufacture in volumes, something that is very useful when testing drugs.
The heart on a chip is clearly not for use by a human but by pharmaceutical companies that need to check on living tissue the effects of drugs. This also avoids the need for animal testing.
By building the heart on a chip (rather than having a tissue cultivated in vitro) it is possible to have the chip (which embeds sensors) monitor the heart tissue and continuously report data to the researchers.
The chip is 3D printed in one single shot. Once finished cardiomyocytes (hear cells) are added to the chip. The systems measure their contraction strength and how it changes under the effect of a specific drug. When cells contract they bend a cantilever (that has been 3D printed as part of the chip printing) and this bending changes its resistance that is in turn measured.