Supercomputer code successfully models behavior of interwoven vasculature created with new 3D printing technique

Supercomputer code successfully models behavior of interwoven vasculature created with new 3D printing technique

With the help of a dash of turmeric and blueberry, bioengineers have developed a technique for 3D printing complex, interwoven vascular networks that mimic many of the movements and forces of those found in real organs.

The technique could help researchers understand how the flexing of entangled pathways for blood, air, lymph and other vital fluids affect each systems’ function and move the field closer toward bioprinting entire organs.

To better understand the forces and stresses at work in the new networks, the researchers turned to one of the world’s most sophisticated systems for computationally modelling blood flow. Developed by Amanda Randles, the Alfred Winborne and Victoria Stover Mordecai Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Duke University, HARVEY is a supercomputer code capable of simulating blood flow through the human vasculature down to the cellular level.

Led by bioengineers Jordan Miller of Rice University and Kelly Stevens of the University of Washington (UW), the research appears online on the cover of Science on May 3. It includes a visually stunning proof-of-principle—a hydrogel model of a lung-mimicking air sac in which airways deliver oxygen to surrounding blood vessels.

“One of the biggest road blocks to generating functional tissue has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,” said Miller, assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. “Our organs contain independent vascular networks—like the airways and blood vessels of the lung or the bile ducts and blood vessels in the liver. These interpenetrating networks are physically and biochemically entangled, and the architecture itself is intimately related to tissue function. Ours is the first bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge of multivascularization in a direct and comprehensive way.”

The new open-source bioprinting technology is dubbed the “stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering,” or SLATE. The system works by printing a sequence of layers from a liquid pre-hydrogel solution that becomes a solid when exposed to blue light.


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[Originally posted by Duke Pratt School of Engineering — May 2, 2019]