An artificial heart which closely imitates the real thing “in form and function” has been developed by Swiss researchers.

Made from silicone, it weights 390 grams – around 80 grams more than a normal, real heart – and contains a “complex inner structure,” according to developer Nicholas Cohrs.

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Mirroring a real human heart, the mock muscle contains a right and left ventricle, and came to life through a 3D printer.

The two chambers are separated not by a septum, but by an additional chamber which is deflated through pressurised air. Used to pump fluid, the chamber mimics muscle contraction.

“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,” said Cohrs, a PhD student at ETH Zurich, the institution behind the innovation.

Although it functions similarly to the real thing, researchers found it is limited to 3,000 beats, or a maximum beating time of 45 minutes. This is due to constraints of the soft material.

The soft artificial heart resembles the human heart (Zurich Heart)

While developers did not intend for this model to become a temporary implant straight away, it has paved a new way in thinking about artificial organs.

“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,” Cohrs said.

However, it is hoped that the development will transform the function of current blood pumps, which researchers say are prone to complications.

Some 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure, and the new technology could potentially bridge the gap between demand and donor supply.

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