In the past decade, engineers at the University of California San Diego have 3D printed a variety of devices ranging from rocket engines, to robots, to structures inspired by the seahorse’s tail. Now, nanoengineers have added a new item to that list: a 3D printed biomimetic blood vessel network.
The new research, led by nanoengineering professor Shaochen Chen, addresses one of the biggest challenges in tissue engineering: creating lifelike tissues and organs with functioning vasculature — networks of blood vessels that can transport blood, nutrients, waste and other biological materials — and do so safely when implanted inside the body.
Researchers from other labs have used different 3D printing technologies to create artificial blood vessels. But existing technologies are slow, costly and mainly produce simple structures, such as a single blood vessel — a tube, basically. These blood vessels also are not capable of integrating with the body’s own vascular system.