Laser-Welded Sugar: The New Technique to Repair Damaged Blood Vessels?

October 5, 2020 11:05:18

A study that was published in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal by Rice University bioengineers demonstrated how the researchers created blood vessel networks from 3D-printed sugar templates which they used to keep tightly packed cells alive for a 2-week period.

Ian Kinstlinger, who is the lead author of the study, said that among the biggest obstacles in developing clinically significant tissues was trying to provide enough nutrients and oxygen to all the millions of living cells in a large tissue structure.

He explained that the development of new materials and technologies that mimic vascular networks that occur naturally had significantly helped with the issue, making it easier for the researchers to provide nutrients and oxygen to plenty of cells. This increased the chances of the cells achieving therapeutic function in the long-term.

The study’s coauthor who is also an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University, Jordan Miller, used an open source modified laser cutter to 3D print the sugar templates in his lab.

Laser sintering was used to make these complex 3D templates. Laser sintering and extrusion create 3D shapes using 2D layers. He explained that extrusion printing could not be used in some architectures like branched networks, multivascular networks and overhanging structures. Miller started working on the laser sintering methods soon after joining Rice University in 2013.

With selective laser sintering, researchers were afforded much more control in all 3 dimensions which allowed the researchers to access the cells while simultaneously preserving the sugar material’s utility.

Sugar was used to create the blood vessel templates as it can dissolve in water without harming the surrounding cells and it’s also durable when its dry.

Kinstlinger added that the main benefit of using this method was that they could create tissue structures at a faster rate.

After creating these tissues, the research team then conducted hepatocyte experiments collaboratively with Kelly Stevens, who is a bioengineer from the University of Washington. Stevens’ research group focused on the study of these delicate hepatocyte cells, which are very hard to nourish outside a host’s body.

Stevens states that the method Kinstlinger’s group used was incredibly versatile, as it could be utilized in various material cocktails, unlike other bio-printing technologies.

Miller concluded that the team had shown that the generation of large tissue volumes and sustaining the hepatocytes in those tissues for a period of time to evaluate their function was possible. This, he said, was an exciting step forward. Do biomedical companies like DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO) think that functional synthetic tissues are just a few years away from reality? Only time will tell.

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