Scientists print human blood vessels
3D printing technology may help create capillaries for lab-created organs
Blood vessels made artificially on a 3D printer may soon be used in transplants of lab-created organs, according to the BBC.
Scientists at Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have used 3D printing and a technique called multiphoton polymerisation to supply the artificial transplant organs with nutrients via printer-fabricated capillaries.
Many patients who need organ transplants do not get the needed organs in time because of a shortage.
Globally, researchers in tissue engineering have been working on creating artificial tissue and entire organs in the lab, but these must be supplied by blood vessels and many scientists have previously attempted to recreate vessels with little luck.
This latest attempt by the German team seems promising, according to the BBC.
"The individual techniques are already functioning and they are presently working in the test phase; the prototype for the combined system is being built," Dr Gunter Tovar, who heads the BioRap project at Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart told the BBC.
3D printing is being used in a range of industries from creating chocolate shapes, to clothing and architectural models.
Dr Tovar's team used the printing technology, combined with two-photon polymerisation - shining intense laser beams onto the material to stimulate the molecules in a very small focus point, to recreate the miniscule blood vessels.
The material created becomes an elastic solid, allowing the researchers to create precise and elastic structures which can interact with human tissue. The walls of the tubes are impregnated with modifies biomolecules to ensure they are no rejected by the body.
The biomolecules are also present in the ‘inks' used for the blood vessel printer, combined with synthetic polymers.
"We are establishing a basis for applying rapid prototyping to elastic and organic biomaterials," said Dr Tovar. "The vascular systems illustrate very dramatically what opportunities this technology has to offer, but that's definitely not the only thing possible."