Talk of 3D printing blood vessels is nothing new, but being able to actually do it is.
3D bioprinting is not exactly a new idea. Countless articles and news stories have been written about the possibilities of using 3D printers in the medical world, but we have yet to see many real-world applications of the technology. That might all be set to change with news of the research team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston having successfully 3D printed vessels capable of transporting fluids using an interesting technique.
First, the team from Boston prints a template of the vessels from a sugar based molecule called ‘agarose' and then covers it in a jelly similar to hydrogel. This provides the research team with a cast for the vessels which can be pulled out from the gel (since agarose is rigid compared to the jelly) and used to create channels, without damaging any of the cells inside. This process creates vessels that are much better at transporting liquids and closely resemble the real thing.
Don't go rushing off to the doctor to order your new vascular system just yet though, there's still some way to go before we see 3D printed blood vessels being implanted in humans, but this latest news does bring 3D bioprinting of vessels a step closer. The likelihood is that this technology will first provide the medical word with an accurate ‘true-to-life' model for testing new medicines and medical procedures before it finally gets under anyone's skin.