3D bioprinting is an important technology used in the medical industry. One of its most recent applications is the creation of synthetic vascular grafts that can be used to replace unhealthy blood vessels of patients who underwent coronary or bypass surgery.
Traditional vascular grafts work by repurposing the existing blood vessels from a donor or from the patient’s body. The problem, however, is that sources of good and healthy blood vessels are often very difficult to come by. This is the reason why researches from the Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Center from Shanghai University developed composite vascular grafts that can replace traditional sources of blood vessels.
Dr. Yuanyuan Liu, associate professor and team leader, worked on creating synthetic vascular grafts by micro-imprinting and electro-spinning techniques using 3D printing. The new vascular graft contains three layers that have good mechanical strength as well as promote new cell growth.
To create the synthetic blood vessels, researchers used a mixture of polyvinyl alcohol and chitosan and injected them to very fine fibers to mimic a real blood vessel. The new vascular graft serves as a scaffold where the blood vessels of the patients can grow and connect with each other. The scaffold was then seeded with fibroblast cells. All components eventually degrade within six months which leaves behind intact and healthy blood vessels.
The resulting structure is very promising but the researchers have yet to try it on human trials. However, they were successful in using this technology to laboratory rats. Nevertheless, this technology will really help a lot of people once it has been thoroughly developed by scientists.
***PHOTO: 3-D bio-printing equipment can prepare all kind of scaffolds for tissue defect repair. Credit: Yuanyuan Liu/Shanghai University