Researchers are closer to working capillaries in 3D-printed organs

From Engadget - July 10, 2017

All of our blood vessels are lined with a type of cell called endothelial cells. To form vessels, individual endothelial cells begin to create empty holes in themselves, called vacuoles. They then connect with other endothelial cells that have done the same thing and the linked vacuoles form tubes, which ultimately become capillaries. Here, the researchers took endothelial cells and mixed them with either fibrin -- a protein involved in blood clotting -- or a semi-synthetic material called gelatin methacrylate (GelMA), which can be easily 3D-printed. When mixed with fibrin, the endothelial cells formed tubes fairly easily, but that was not the case with the GelMA. However, when the researchers added in another type of cell, a stem cell found in bone marrow, the endothelial cells were then able to form tubes in the GelMA.

"We have confirmed that these cells have the capacity to form capillary-like structures, both in a natural material called fibrin and in a semi-synthetic material called gelatin methacrylate, or GelMA," Gisele Calderon, the lead author of the study, said in a statement, "The GelMA finding is particularly interesting because it is something we can readily 3D print for future tissue-engineering applications."


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