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Yes, MIT has developed system to 3D-print models of real human hearts

A system to convert medical scans into 3D-printed models of human hearts has been developed by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claims a 3 January 2020 article on the site Guns of Boom.

The article was shared on Facebook in South Africa, and flagged as possibly false by the social network’s fact-checking system. Has the 3D-printed heart system been developed?

MRI scans and ‘virtual surgery’

The story is an exact copy of an article published by MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science nearly five years ago – and it’s correct.

That article describes how MIT researchers and colleagues from the Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans to create computer-based models of patients’ hearts.

These digital models could then be printed by 3D printers to allow surgeons to examine the hearts for defects and plan surgeries to correct them.

In a later article from 22 December 2015, Sitaram Emani, a cardiac surgeon at the Boston Children’s Hospital, said similar heart models were even used to perform “virtual surgery” as practice for the real thing.

System improving over years

The MIT article suggested that the heart models would be used for further research and clinical trials.

Since then, the authors have published other results, including a paper in September 2018 which describes an improvement to their scanning algorithm which can build even more accurate heart models. – Keegan Leech


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