Scientists Can Now 3D Print Human Blood Vessels

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Sure, we can now 3D print stem cells and even whole organs like kidneys, heart, liver and lungs. But 3D printing blood vessels? Now that was a challenge.

A team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has managed to successfully fabricate blood vessels using a three-dimensional bioprinting technique, reports. Here's how they did it:

The researchers first used a 3D bioprinter to make an agarose (naturally derived sugar-based molecule) fiber template to serve as the mold for the blood vessels. They then covered the mold with a gelatin-like substance called hydrogel, forming a cast over the mold which was then reinforced via photocrosslinks.


Ali Khademhosseini, senior study author, explained that what is unique about their approach is that the fiber templates his team printed are strong enough that they 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."

Blood vessels form the basis of our circulatory system, allowing blood to flow freely and delivery, deliver essential nutrients and clear hazardous waste from our organs. So being able to print them is a big deal. According to Khademhosseini, the future applications range from being able to develop customized transplantable issues or be used to develop safe and effective drugs outside the body.


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Image credit: Khademhosseini Lab