Scientists hope one day to be able to produce hearts suitable for transplant into humans as well as patches to regenerate defective hearts.
The heart produced by researchers at Tel Aviv University is about the size of a rabbit’s.
Project leader Tal Dvir said it marked “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers”.
He added: “People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels”.
The scientist said many challenges remain before fully working 3D printed hearts would be available for transplant into patients.
Dvir explained that researchers must now teach the printed hearts “to behave” like real ones, as the cells are currently able to contract, but do not yet have the ability to pump.
The Israeli scientists plan to transplant them into animal models in around a year’s time.
Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organisation, and transplants are currently the only option available for patients in the worst cases.