What’s the next big breakthrough for 3D printing? Try 3D-printed blood vessels. Last September, we looked at how researchers in Germany created printable blood vessels, but a research team from MIT and the University of Pennsylvania took the idea one step further. The latest breakthrough allows researchers to create entire networks of blood vessels using a sugar-based mixture and a customized RepRap 3D printer. Pretty sweet, huh?
The printer uses this sugar mixture as its “ink” to print out the desired blood vessel network. The properties of the sugar mix allow the template to be printed out, thus creating a temporary grid of pipes. The researchers then coat this pipe template with a polymer to stabilize the printed network. Once stable, they poar living cells around the template, creating solid tissue; the sugar will then dissolve, leaving just a network of vessels for fluid to flow through.
Jordan Miller, a member of the research team, told IEEE Spectrum that the inspiration to use sugar in this creative way came following a visit to the Body Worlds exhbition. At the exhibition, he saw plastic blood vessels on display, which sparked the idea to use sugar in a similar way. The research team’s goal is to implant working organs that they have made into animals for scientific study.