University of California

3D Printing Blood Vessel Networks

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3-D printers can assemble raw materials into very complex products. Researchers had previously fabricated a single blood vessel, which amounted to no more than a long and slender tube. The next hurdle is to create complex, branching networks of blood vessels.

A team of engineers led by Dr. Shaochen Chen of the University of California, San Diego, aimed to improve on current 3-D printers to better engineer complex tissues like blood vessel networks. Their research was supported by NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Results were published online in advance of the April 2017 issue of Biomaterials.

“Almost all tissues and organs need blood vessels to survive and work properly. This is a big bottleneck in making organ transplants, which are in high demand but in short supply,” says Chen. “3-D bioprinting organs can help bridge this gap, and our lab has taken a big step toward that goal.”

The results show that a complex tissue resembling blood vessels can be formed using a 3-D printer. The ultimate challenge for this research team is to engineer heart tissue with a complex network of blood vessels. Such tissues might be used to replace damaged heart muscle or for drug testing. 🙂


3D Printed Microscopic Robotic Fish

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According to the researcher Wei Zhu, “developing the technology Nano-engineers at the University of California,  San Diego has been able to 3D print microscopic robots.  They developed tiny robots shaped like fish.  These are called microfish and are smaller than the width of human hair.  Nanoparticles are added to various parts of the microfish to make them functional.  Platinum nanoparticles installed in their tails help them propel forward.  Magnetic nanoparticles installed in their head can be used to steer them.

The microfish are developed using a 3D printing technology called microscale continuous optical printing.  This technology allows 3D printing hundreds of microfish within seconds. The shapes of the microbots to be changed, for example, to experiment with different shapes of fish such as sharks vs. ray fish, or experiment with other shapes such as birds.

We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications.”  For example, toxic neutralizing particles can be included in the microfish to use them for detoxifying liquids.  In future, this technology may allow delivery of medicine to specific parts of the body via a bloodstream”.

3D-Printed Artificial Microfish. Advanced Materials. 2015