Scientists have developed a 3D printing technique that can recreate the complex geometry of blood vessels, and could one day be used to produce artificial arteries and organ tissues.
A study, published in the journal Nature Communications, outlines a layer-by-layer printing method that features fine-grain, programmable control over rigidity.
The findings could lead to better, more personalized treatments for those suffering from hypertension and other vascular diseases.
Hardened blood vessels are associated with cardiovascular disease, but engineering a solution for viable artery and tissue replacement has historically proven challenging.
To overcome these hurdles, researchers found a unique way to take advantage of oxygen’s role in setting the final form of a 3D-printed structure.
By keeping tight control over oxygen migration and its subsequent light exposure, researchers have the freedom to control which areas of an object are solidified to be harder or softer – all while keeping the overall geometry the same.
As a demonstration, the researchers printed a small Chinese warrior figure, printing it so that the outer layers remained hard while the interior remained soft.
The tabletop-sized printer is currently capable of working with biomaterials down to a size of 10 microns, or about one-tenth the width of a human hair.
The researchers are optimistic that future studies will help improve the capabilities even further.