"What is unique about our approach is that the fiber templates we printed are strong enough that we can physically remove them to make the channels," said researcher and biomedical engineer Ali Khademhosseini. "This prevents having to dissolve these template layers, which may not be so good for the cells that are entrapped in the surrounding gel."
Researchers say the artificial vascular network enhanced the surrounding cells transportation systems, viability and differentiation. The team was then able to get the vessels to exhibit an endothelial monolayer; this is the lining of cells that forms the interior of blood vessels, demonstrating the network's superiority.
Synthetically created transplants may not be in the very near future; however the use of such artificial biological systems for drug development research is a realistic intermediary until then. Companies like Organovo are already active in this arena, and tout the technique's cost savings methods compared to animal studies, which don't always provide as accurate information about the human interactions. Organovo has turned their attention to liver cells for toxicity testing for now, but the technology developed by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital could be applied to tissues for any part of the body.
"Engineers have made incredible strides in making complex artificial tissues such as those of the heart, liver and lungs," Khademhosseini said in the statement. "However, creating artificial blood vessels remains a critical challenge in tissue engineering. We've attempted to address this challenge by offering a unique strategy for vascularization of hydrogel constructs that combine advances in 3D bioprinting technology and biomaterials."
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