scientists are one step closer to realizing working 3D-printed organs, after finding a simple answer to the complex problem of building detailed vascular networks. now, after successfully testing the use of food dye to create a tangled network of vessels, scientists have been able to resemble those populating the human body.


video by rice university



bioengineers at rice university and the university of washington have shown off their research with a dramatic model of a breathing lung that passes oxygen into surrounding blood vessels. it marks a significant breakthrough because up until now, whilst it has been relatively easy to grow living cells in a lab, the tricky part has been keeping them alive. 

bioengineers create 3D printed 'breathing' organ with complex vascular networks designboom



to combat this the team created a new open-source technology for bioprinting called the stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering (SLATE). this involved printing a liquid, pre-hydrogel solution made up of living cells, and curing each layer by exposing it to a blue light. in order to achieve the fine detail necessary to recreate the vascular system, the team added food dyes that helped to absorb the blue light and focus the solidification onto very thin layers.

bioengineers create 3D printed 'breathing' organ with complex vascular networks designboom



one of the biggest road blocks to generating functional tissue replacements has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,’ explains jordan miller, lead researcher on the study.further, our organs actually contain independent vascular networks — like the airways and blood vessels of the lung or the bile ducts and blood vessels in the liver. these interpenetrating networks are physically and biochemically entangled, and the architecture itself is intimately related to tissue function. ours is the first bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge of multivascularization in a direct and comprehensive way.’