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Penn researchers improve living tissues with 3-D printed vascular networks made from sugar
Date:7/1/2012

ding blocks are also typically added and dissolved into nutrient media that help cells grow.

"We tested many different sugar formulations until we were able to optimize all of these characteristics together," Miller said. "Since there's no single type of gel that's going to be optimal for every kind of engineered tissue, we also wanted to develop a sugar formula that would be broadly compatible with any cell type or water-based gel."

The formula they settled on a combination of sucrose and glucose along with dextran for structural reinforcement is printed with a RepRap, an open-source 3D printer with a custom-designed extruder and controlling software. An important step in stabilizing the sugar after printing, templates are coated in a thin layer of a degradable polymer derived from corn. This coating allows the sugar template to be dissolved and to flow out of the gel through the channels they create without inhibiting the solidification of the gel or damaging the growing cells nearby. Once the sugar is removed, the researchers start flowing fluid through the vascular architecture and cells begin to receive nutrients and oxygen similar to the exchange that naturally happens in the body.

The whole process is quick and inexpensive, allowing the researchers to switch with ease between computer simulations and physical models of multiple vascular configurations.

"This new platform technology, from the cell's perspective, makes tissue formation a gentle and quick journey," Chen said, "because cells are only exposed to a few minutes of manual pipetting and a single step of being poured into the molds before getting nourished by our vascular network."

The researchers showed that human blood vessel cells injected throughout the vascular networks spontaneously generated new capillary sprouts to increase the network's reach, much in the way blood vessels in the body naturally grow. The team then created gels containing primary
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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