The contributions made by 3D printers in the healthcare industry are undoubtedly outstanding, but it seems that researchers and scientists are not going to slow down any time soon. They have now targeted one of the most complex part of human body i.e. is the blood vessels. There are almost sixty thousand miles of blood vessels in a human body. Blood vessels form the basis of the circulatory system allowing blood to flow freely and deliver essential nutrients and clear hazardous waste from the various organs of the human body. So the ability of the being able to print blood vessels is quite a big deal.
Although there has been numerous attempts to replicate all sorts of human tissues and organs but nothing could be actually materialized. The printing of blood vessels has been the talk in the healthcare industry for quite some time. But it’s quite a tricky affair to make tissues that fit the complexities of a human body in an effective way.
This concept has been materialized by a research team from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has successfully fabricated blood vessels using three dimensional bio-printing techniques. As per Doctor Ali Khademhosseini, who is a biomedical engineer and project leader of this project at Boston,explained , “Creating artificial blood vessels remains a unique 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.”The process involves the printing of agarose or sugar based molecule fibers as templates for the vessels and then covers that in jelly like hydrogel to produce a cast over the fibers which is then reinforced via photocrosslinks. Since the agarose is sturdy, scientist can pull it out to create channels without damaging any cells inside the gel. The resulting vessels are much better at transporting liquid and otherwise behaving like the real deal.This durable combination ensures that “the fiber templates we printed are strong enough that we can physically remove them to make the channels,” Khademhosseini said, explaining that this is crucial because it “prevents having to dissolve these template layers, which may not be so good for the cells that are entrapped in the surrounding gel.”
This new dimension that 3D printing has given to the healthcare industry may be used to develop transplantable tissues that can be customized according to the requirements of the patient. This would solve many problems and also arrest the death rate of people due to health problems related to lack of available transplants.
Image Source: University of Liverpool Faculty of Hralth & Life Science (Flickr Handle – liverpoolhls)