Science

Researchers successfully 3D print blood vessels, a ‘game changer’ for artificial organs

Above: An illustration of the inside of a blood vessel.

Image Credit: Mopic / Shutterstock

Hundreds of thousands of people die annually because the demand for organs far exceeds the donor supply. Artificial organs could save those lives — and scientists just made a huge breakthrough in the field by “bio-printing” artificial vascular networks.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford have successfully bio-printed blood vessels, offering 3D-printed organs access to nutrients, oxygen, and waste-disposal routes, according to a study published Monday.

“While recreating little parts of tissues in the lab is something that we have already been able to do, the possibility of printing three-dimensional tissues with functional blood capillaries in the blink of an eye is a game changer,” said Dr. Luiz Bertassoni, the study’s lead author and a University of Sydney researcher.

The vascular network of the human liver.

Above: The vascular network of the human liver.

To 3D print vascular networks, the researchers fabricated fine, interconnected fibers with an advanced bioprinter. Then they coated those fibers with human endothelial cells — these sit between circulating blood and vessel walls in the interior of blood vessels — and subsequently applied a protein-based material. They hardened the whole structure with light, then delicately removed the fibers, leaving behind a complex network of hollow cell material. After a week, those cells organized themselves into stable capillaries.

Cells inside the bioprinted vascular networks survived, differentiated, and proliferated at better rates than cells that received no nutrient supply, the study found.

“Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed — or bio-printed, as we call it — with all the cells, proteins, and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the ‘print’ button on your computer screen,” said Bertassoni.

That’s still “far away,” he said, but this new research is a key advancement toward achieving that goal.

Scientists have had some earlier success growing blood vessels in labs, engineering veins by taking donated blood vessel cells and placing them on tubular, biodegradable scaffolding. But 3D printing technology could make the process substantially more feasible by increasing speed and cutting costs.

Via: 3DPrint.

22 comments
John Kuo
John Kuo

we send them to Mars, or, Gliese 832 c

Andrea Rishmawi
Andrea Rishmawi

I feel like they did this on Grey's Anatomy...it's a good era when science is getting ideas from TV dramas.

Irshu EK
Irshu EK

lets start 3D printing hearts, making the world a better place

Monica Lewandowski
Monica Lewandowski

Maybe now they will be able to show that saturated fat doesn't cause atherosclerosis.

Michael J. Sumner
Michael J. Sumner

everybody dies... we'll just live longer and healthier & I for one could do with about another 200 yrs... sooo much 2 do & c.

Sunny Kumar
Sunny Kumar

some new kind of virus will break and lives will still be lost. Nature has its way to maintain balance

Arun Das
Arun Das

A big step towards artificial organ generation and a small step towards immortality!

David Nader
David Nader

What are we gonna do with all the people when nobody dies?