A 3D printer for vascular networks is coming!

For years, scientists have been able to print different types of human tissue using a 3D printer: bioengineers have been steadily advancing toward the goal of building lab-grown organs out of a patient’s own cells, but a few major challenges remained.

One of them was making vasculature, the blood vessel plumbing system that delivers nutrients and remove waste from the cells on the inside of a mass of tissue. A major medical breakthrough!

But in a major medical breakthrough, researchers from Sydney and Harvard universities have managed to 3D print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow cells to sustain themselves and survive. Bioengineers  have turned the problem inside out by using a 3D printer to make templates of blood vessel networks out of sugar. Once the networks are encased in a block of cells, the sugar can be dissolved, leaving a functional vascular Unknownnetwork behind.

“Cells die without an adequate blood supply because blood supplies oxygen that’s necessary for cells to grow and perform a range of functions in the body,” says lead author of the study, Dr. Luiz Bertassoni. “To illustrate the scale and complexity of the bio-engineering challenge we face, consider that every cell in the body is just a hair’s width from a supply of oxygenated blood. Replicating the complexity of these networks has been a stumbling block preventing tissue engineering from becoming a real world clinical application”.

 

A full organ created with a 3D printer?

Bertassoni explains that the ultimate aim of the research is for patients to be able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place.

“We are still far away from that, but our research is addressing exactly that” – researcher says – “Our finding is an important new step towards achieving these goals. At the moment, we are pretty much printing ‘prototypes’ that, as we improve, will eventually be used to change the way we treat patients worldwide”.

Read more on the official website of the University of Sidney or watch the video here.