3D-printed patch treats smaller ischemic blood vessels

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Surgery is one way of treating ischemia, but it becomes exponentially more complicated the smaller the vessels are. Developing a new treatment for the smallest vessels, researchers have started work on 3D printed patches capable of infusing with cells to grow healthy blood vessels. Research is published in the latest issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Led by professor Christopher Chen, MSE, researchers paired with Innolign, a biomedical technology company in Boston, to develop a patch to activate growth of new vessels without the complications of surgery. 3D printing the patches on a small scale of 100 microns allowed researchers to change and test their designs to find the right fit.

"Therapeutic angiogenesis, when growth factors are injected to encourage new vessels to grow, is a promising experimental method to treat ischemia," said Chen. "One of the questions we were trying to answer is whether or not architecture of the implant mattered, and this showed us that yes, it does, which is why our unique approach using a 3D printer was important. The pre-organized architecture of the patch helped to guide the formation of new blood vessels that seemed to deliver sufficient blood to the downstream tissue. While it wasn't a full recovery, we observed functional recovery of function in the ischemic tissue."

The research team develop two patches using endothelial cells, one with pre-organized structures and the second with the cells injected without any structure. Testing the patches showed pre-organization of structures allowed for a reduction of ischemia.

"This project has been long in the making, and our clinical collaborators have been indispensable to the success of the project," Chen said. "As a bioengineer, we were focused on how to actually build the patch itself, while the clinical perspective was critical to the design process. We look forward to continuing our partnerships as we move forward."