Inspired by Nature: In the human body, interconnected networks of fine blood vessels nourish tissue and remove waste. Jennifer Lewis and her team have developed a method for printing 3D tissue constructs that weaves multiple cell types within the extracellular matrix that supports them, and builds in the vascular network.
Building intricate structures: The team first designed a custom printer that can precisely co-print multiple materials in 3D to create intricate heterogeneous patterns.
Building in blood vessels: Then they addressed a big challenge in tissue engineering: embedding 3D vascular networks. They developed a “fugitive” ink that can easily be printed, then suctioned off to create open microchannels that can then be populated with blood-vessel-lining cells to allow blood to flow.
Building with bio-inks: Using their custom-built printer, the fugitive ink for the vasculature, and other biological inks containing extracellular matrix and human cells, the researchers printed a 3D tissue construct.
The result: After suctioning off the fugitive ink, the team populated the vascular network with human blood-vessel-lining cells to create the beginnings of working blood vessels. The team now aims to harness the cells’ innate tissue-forming ability to encourage the 3D-printed constructs to develop into fully vascularized tissue.