Meet the Aussie Doctor Who breaks new ground by 3D printing hearts

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PEDESTTRIAN.TV has partnered with Play For Purpose. $5 from every raffle ticket supports an Australian charity that you are passionate about helping them continue to do amazing work in the community.

It’s easy to get depressed about the current state of the world. However, there are always small glimmers of hope in the form of good people doing amazing things for the state of humanity – that’s where Doctor Carmine Gentile enters the scene.

Dr. Gentile is an internationally recognized expert in 3D bioprinting and stem cell technologies and currently leads a team of researchers within the Cardiovascular Regeneration Group with support from Cardiac Research Australia.

Although 3D bioprinting may seem like a lofty phrase to the average person, it is one of the most revolutionary modern advances in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. For simplicity, it’s a new way to study and help prevent a heart attack before it leads to heart failure and reduce the need for a heart transplant.

“I focused on bioprinting heart tissue because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and has also impacted my own family. Despite the latest advances in cardiovascular research, we are doing our best to bring this new technology to patients as soon as possible,” says Dr. Gentile, explaining why he is so passionate about the field of study.

We spoke to Dr Gentile to find out what exactly 3D bioprinting is, how it’s helping save Australian lives and what you can do to get involved.

PEDSTRIAN.TV: What is 3D bioprinting and how does it work?

Doctor Carmine Gentile: It is the use of 3D printing techniques to create fabrics that form naturally in the human body. This technology combines cells and high water content gels (called “hydrogels”) that mimic the typical environment of the human body.

Every cell in our body is surrounded by a mixture of molecules that characterize that specific tissue. Hydrogels mimic this tissue-specific activity to recreate similar conditions in a test tube. When mixed together, the cells and hydrogels create the bio-ink, which we call “bio-ink”. Then the bio-ink is printed through the 3D bio-printer according to the geometry we decide, similar to what a 3D printer does with plastic or metals.

Several considerations are needed to keep cells alive during and after the printing process. Once bio-printed in 3D, the tissues can then be used in a test tube to test the toxic effects of drugs to mimic a disease that occurs in the human body (in our lab we have developed “a heart attack in a test tube” using this technology). In some cases, they could be transplanted into patients.

What have been the most exciting discoveries so far? And what surprised you the most in your discoveries?

Recently, we demonstrated with one of my students that our technology could not only be safe, but also improve the way a patient’s heart contracts following a severe heart attack. Damaged heart tissue after a heart attack cannot pump enough blood through a patient’s body, a condition normally defined as “heart failure”.

By testing our 3D bioprinted heart tissue in preclinical studies, we were very pleased to find that it improved the way the heart pumps blood in a study conducted last year despite limitations due to lockdown.

What will the additional funding for Heart Research Australia be used for?

Heart Research Australia supports ‘seed’ funding, enabling researchers like me to bring their innovative ideas ‘out of the notebook’ to life. As this type of first-stage research is not eligible for government funding, securing funding can be difficult, time-consuming, and incredibly competitive. Having organizations like Heart Research Australia fund this early stage research for our projects allows us to achieve strong results and be eligible to apply for larger government grants.

Without the support of Heart Research Australia, many ideas would not otherwise have been able to be investigated had we not received support from their generous donors. This additional funding will help Heart Research Australia to:

  • Fund a dedicated team of cardiologists and researchers working on a range of vital projects to identify better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease.
  • Support emerging researchers by funding scholarships.
  • Providing cardiology researchers with the equipment and tools they need to find medical breakthroughs in heart disease.

How can the average Australian support the cause?

You can buy a Play for Purpose Raffle Ticket – $5 from every $10 ticket sold goes directly to Heart Research Australia to help fund vital heart research. Play for Purpose is a great opportunity for anyone to support much-needed medical breakthroughs in heart disease while having the opportunity to win prizes. Revenue received through Play for Purpose enables Heart Research Australia to effectively plan, budget and invest in future life-saving, innovative cardiac research studies.

You can also get a group of friends together and organize a fundraising event or even participate in Heart Research Australia’s annual REDFEB fundraising campaign!

Picture: provided

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