One of the major challenges in building lab-grown organs out of a patient's own cells has been making blood vessels that deliver essential nutrients and dispose of hazardous waste from the system to keep our organs working properly.
This obstacle may soon wither away as researchers have made significant headway towards fabricating blood vessels using a three-dimensional (3D) bio-printing technique.
"Creating artificial blood vessels remains a critical challenge in tissue engineering.
We have attempted to address this challenge by offering a unique strategy for vascularisation of hydrogel constructs that combine advances in 3D bio-printing technology and bio-materials," said Ali Khademhosseini from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in the US.
The researchers first used a 3D bio-printer to make an agarose (naturally derived sugar-based molecule) fibre template to serve as a mould for the blood vessels.
They then covered the mould with a gelatin-like substance called hydrogel, forming a cast over the mould which was then reinforced via photocrosslinks.
"Our approach involves the printing of agarose fibres that become the blood vessel channels. But what is unique about our approach is that the fibre templates we printed are strong enough that we can physically remove them to make the channels," Khademhosseini added.
The study appeared in the journal Lab on a Chip.