The human body’s blood system is a miraculous design that has baffled scientists that have tried to reproduce it.  Now a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) however, has managed to fabricate human blood vessels using a 3D bio-printing technique.

Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, biomedical engineer, and director of the BWH Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, said, “Engineers have made incredible strides in making complex artificial tissues such as those of the heart, liver and lungs…However, creating artificial blood vessels remains a critical challenge in tissue engineering. We’ve attempted to address this challenge by offering a unique strategy for vascularization of hydrogel constructs that combine advances in 3D bio-printing technology and biomaterials.”

3D bioprinting

The scientific researchers began by using a 3D bioprinter to create an agarose fiber (a sugar-based molecule) template to act as the mould for the blood vessels. The team then covered the mould with hydrogel, thereby forming a cast over the mould, which was then reinforced via photocrosslinks.

Khademhosseini said, “Our approach involves the printing of agarose fibres that become the blood vessel channels. But what is unique about our approach is that the fibre templates we printed are strong enough that we can physically remove them to make the channels. This prevents having to dissolve these template layers, which may not be so good for the cells that are entrapped in the surrounding gel.”

Khademhosseini and his team were then able to construct micro-channel networks that exhibit a mixture of architectural features. The team were also able to effectively embed these functional micro-channels within an extensive range of commonly used hydro-gels,

One such hydro-gel, Methacrylated gelatine, was used to show how their fabricated vascular networks operated to improve mass transport, cellular differentiation and cellular viability.

Khademhosseini said, “In the future, 3D printing technology may be used to develop transplantable tissues customized to each patient’s needs or be used outside the body to develop drugs that are safe and effective.”

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[Image via enterprisetech]