Synthetic tissues for medical use are one step closer with the latest research using 3-D printing.
If you’ve ever had a Jell-o salad, you’ve seen how the flavored gelatin can keep fruit and marshmallows suspended throughout the tubular mold. But you probably never thought the fruity dessert would provide a model for scientists working to synthetic human blood vessels.
But it turns out that Jell-o molds were the inspiration for a team from Carnegie Mellon University who have created lab-made human blood vessels, using a 3-D printer. Their paper, published earlier this week in the journal Science Advances, shows how they can create replicas of arteries, brain tissue and other organs using natural proteins, according to Bloomberg.
Previous attempts to create blood vessels using a modified 3-D printer have struggled with the properties of natural proteins like collagen, which can be used as the printing material in place of plastic but which can’t hold their shape like plastic can.
To add support for collagen vessels, the researchers used a gelatin slurry that prints with the collagen in layers. Once ths structure is complete, the collagen can hold without the support, and the gelatin is easily removed with body-temperature water.
The process is not expected to be used in tissue transplants, which are still expected to be years away. But drug companies may find them useful in drug development and testing, and physicians may use them as models for testing new procedures.