3D printing of capillaries: the cornerstone of organ construction

ArtiVasc 3D is a research project supported by the European Union. The goal of the project is to introduce a micro and nano-scale manufacturing technology to create artificial tissue with blood vessels. This means that the use of nutrients with metabolically active tissue and "bio-artificial vascular skin" made with ArtiVasc 3D technology is likely to be the first system to create alternative tissues for human use.

In this project, a multidisciplinary team of experts in the fields of biomaterial development, angiogenesis, tissue engineering, cell-matrix interaction and rapid manufacturing is working together to create a fully automated, standardized manufacturing approach. It can be used as a tissue for transplant materials that can be used for wound healing in humans. The research team also stated that the tissue they are developing is equivalent to an in vitro skin and is well suited for testing in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Currently, the focus of the project is to create an artificial, three-layer "perfused skin model"

Under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), the R&D team has developed a 3D printing process that can be used to make artificial blood vessels. This result led the team to find a way to develop a full-thickness skin model – a way to achieve greater layer thickness.

Blood vessels are the key to the entire technology, and this is one of the most challenging issues in soft tissue development. It requires a way to supply nutrients to cells in multi-layered tissues such as artificial skin. Only in this way can it produce the upper skin – the epidermis and the dermis. The multilayer tissue currently obtained by scientists outside the human body is only 200 microns thick, but a complete skin system consists of subcutaneous tissue that can reach a thickness of a few millimeters.

ArtiVasc 3D says their goal is "to make it possible to grow complex tissues in vitro through the development of artificial blood vessels."

To do this, ILT scientists say they have combined inkjet technology with photocuring technology. By these methods, they have constructed a porous capillary with a high resolution of only 20 microns. At the same time, using mathematical simulations, they also developed the data needed to build these branch structures. This means that the structure will achieve a uniform supply of blood.

To this end, the scientists have also developed an acrylate-based synthetic polymer that allows the creation of optimized blood vessels with pore sizes in the range of a few hundred microns. Compared to conventional methods, the ArtiVasc 3D method is the first to obtain capillary and biocompatible blood vessels at this scale.

“We have developed a “toolbox” that has a solution for different materials, shapes and sizes. You can think of it as the precursor to a process chain that does not safely automate the production of man-made blood vessels.” Scientist In their summary report, “The other highlight of the project is the successful realization of adipose tissue hyperplasia in a new type of bioreactor. We combine adipose tissue with existing skin models to create Full-thickness skin model up to 12 mm thick."

The ArtiVasc 3D team said the project will lay the foundation for a bolder feat of future 3D tissue engineering, such as larger organizational structures and even the construction of entire organs.

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