Bio-Printed Blood Vessels Now Possible For Body Implants


By Abigail Klein Leichman

The science of tissue engineering uses cells and biomolecules combined with scaffolds to repair, replace or regenerate a damaged body part with bio-identical tissue.

But when engineered tissues are transplanted into the body, they need a network of blood vessels to function like natural tissues would.

The current method is to transplant the engineered tissue first into a healthy limb, allowing the tissue to be permeated by the host’s blood vessels, and then transplanting the structure into the affected area.

A breakthrough from researchers led by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology tissue engineering pioneer professor Shulamit Levenberg could make that intermediary step unnecessary.

As described in Advanced Materials, Levenberg lab member Ariel Alejandro Szklanny 3D-printed a system containing a functional combination of large and small blood vessels.

“This experiment reveals the high versatility and potential of our proposed technique and represents an important step toward creating personalized implantable vascularized engineered tissues,” the study’s authors wrote.

Dr. Ariel Alejandro Szklanny of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. His technique could be used in the future to create personalized blood vessels. (Courtesy of Technion)

His structure, dubbed VesselNet, was attached to a rat’s femoral artery. Blood flowing through the engineered structure successfully spread through the vessel network, supplying blood to the tissue without leakage.

Szklanny’s vascularized tissue constructs incorporate another Israeli innovation: human collagen produced by engineered tobacco plants from CollPlant.

CollPlant’s products “are based on our revolutionary plant-based technology that enables production of recombinant human type I collagen (rhCollagen), which is identical to the collagen produced by the human body,” its website says.

“The advent of 3D bioprinting is expected to enable unlimited supply of tissues and organs. rhCollagen-based BioInks are ideal for 3D bioprinting. Leveraging on the unique properties of our BioInks and biomaterial know-how, we are developing a pipeline of products aimed at 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs and medical aesthetics.”

Szklanny’s technique could be used in the future to create personalized blood vessels, of the exact shape necessary, which can be printed and implanted together with implanted tissue engineered from the patient’s own cells, eliminating rejection risk.

The study received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

“By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation,” the program’s website says.

Produced in association with Israel21C.

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