Project Wonder - The art of science at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Cardiovascular Regenerative Engineering


What if 3D printing technology could help treat heart disease or repair congenital heart defects? Scientists are using a specialized version of 3D printing known as 3D bioprinting to bioengineer heart tissue. Using this method, researchers have generated samples like this that have produced a steady heartbeat for up to several months in a petri dish.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Because the heart is largely unable to repair itself and the supply of donor hearts is limited, Dr. Brandon Tefft at the MCW and Marquette Cardiovascular Regenerative Engineering Laboratory is collaborating with surgeons at Children’s Wisconsin to develop bioengineered, living heart tissue that will one day be used to reconstruct damage or defects in cardiac patients. These living tissues are made by transforming sample cells from a patient, such as skin or urine cells, into heart cells and would not have the risk of rejection posed by most transplants that requires drugs to suppress the immune system.

Living tissues have the capacity for remodeling, repair and growth. They may offer substantial safety,efficacy and durability advantages compared to current treatment options. Researchers also can use bioengineered heart tissue to test the effectiveness of potential treatments in the lab to see how a patient’s own cells may respond. This would allow the most effective treatment option to be used first.

Research in collaboration with:
Aoy Tomita-Mitchell, PhD, Professor, MCW Department of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering
Michael Mitchell, MD, Professor and Chief, MCW Department of Surgery, Division of Congenital Heart Surgery, Medical Director Children’s Wisconsin Cardiothoracic Surgery, Herma Heart Institute