A South Korean research team has achieved a breakthrough in the production of artificial blood vessels. Using a 3D printing technique, they produced small vessels with a pore-shaped surface that lines itself with a protective cell layer.
As Prof. Jinah Jang from POSTECH reports, the problem with artificial blood vessels with a diameter of less than 6 mm is that they often clump together. The reason: the natural lining of the endothelium, which forms the smooth surface of blood vessels, is missing.
Previous approaches to subsequently apply the endothelium are very costly. Jang’s team has now developed a 3D printing technique called “dragging”, in which micropores can be integrated directly into the vascular structure. A mixture of human cells was simultaneously introduced into the natural polymer printing material.
As it turned out, endothelial cells actively migrate through the pores and colonize the entire artificial vessel from the inside – an effect that can be controlled by the pore size. With optimized parameter selection, blood vessels with an almost complete lining of 97.7% of the endothelium could be created in this way.
According to the researchers, the pneumatic properties of the 3D-printed vessels are so robust that they could potentially be suitable for transplantation. In addition, even complex branched structures could be functionally provided with a protective cell layer in this way, which was previously not possible.
The study was published in Bioactive Materials and carried out with the support of the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT and other funding institutions.