Researchers in Europe have produced a silicone heart that could pave the way for the development of a fully functioning artificial replacement.

The 3D printed silicone heart, created by a team at ETH Zurich’s Functional Materials Laboratory – in partnership with the Product Development Group Zurich – behaves like a human heart and under test conditions lasted for 3,000 beats – equivalent to about three quarters of an hour of life. After that the material couldn’t cope with the pressure.

“This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts,” said Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student at ETH Zurich. “Our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function.”

Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group, was involved in assessing the capabilities of the artificial heart.

He added: “As a mechanical engineer, I would never have thought that I would ever hold a soft heart in my hands. I’m now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts.”