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Harvard University Develops a Network Method for Biological 3D Printing of Complex Blood Vessels

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Time: 2018-09-06

Cardiovascular disease is one of the most serious diseases threatening human beings in the world, and its mechanism of action is complex. The current research based on animal experiments and plane cell experiments is far from the human environment. If a vascular model can be constructed in vitro that can simulate the vascular environment in vivo, chemical stimulation and mechanical stimulation on this model will provide an efficient tool for the study of cardiovascular disease mechanism.

The construction of vascular structures in vitro based on biological printing has always been a research focus in the field of tissue engineering. Common methods mainly include direct printing of tubular structures and construction of flow channel networks in gel structures. Although the vascular models produced by these methods can simulate the function of real blood vessels to a certain extent, they can’t meet the requirements of chemical loading and mechanical loading at the same time, so they cannot be used to build a platform for simulating vascular environment in vitro, and are therefore difficult to study the mechanism of vascular diseases.

Recently, Ali Khademhosseini, a professor of bioengineering specializing in tissue engineering and bioprinting at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his team developed a new and innovative technology for bioprinting to simulate the tubular structure of complex vascular networks and pipelines. This groundbreaking study was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials and can be used for tissue bioprinting in implants or drug testing.

The project is supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and is being carried out in cooperation with researchers from Harvard University and Brigham Women's Hospital. The next step is the biological printing work before Khademhosseini, who developed a customized multi-material biological printer for the production of complex artificial tissues.

Although there are many efforts in the biomedical field to integrate blood vessels into bioprinted tissues, few people have successfully matched the complexity and variability of natural blood vessel networks. It is reported that the latest method proposed by the joint research team is closer than ever to imitating a complex vascular network.

" The blood vessels in the body are not uniform," explained Dr. Yu Shrike Zhang, a senior researcher in the study and biological engineer in BWH Medical Department. " This biological printing method can generate complex tubular structures and imitate the structures in the human body system, with higher fidelity than the previous technology. "

The process involves a special biological chain made from human cells and hydrogel materials. Hydrogels composed of hydrophilic polymers are optimized to promote proliferation of human cells throughout the ink. Next, a box of biological powder is loaded into a biological printer equipped with nozzles that are customized for continuous printing of tubular structures having up to three layers.

It is essential that the tubular structure printed using the new method is pourable, which means that fluids and nutrients can be efficiently transported through them to be carried throughout the tissue. Of course, blood vessels play a key role in bringing nutrients into the whole organic tissue and making it thrive. In artificial tissues, the same function is required.


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