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Endothelial Cells  (Source: Image via Tech.co.uk)
Japanese researchers have devised a way to print new blood vessels from an ink jet printer

Doctors performing artery bypass surgery replace clogged arteries with veins from the inner thigh of the same patient.  This vein, the great saphenous vein, is the longest in the human body and can easily be removed if a patient needs a bypass.

However, this approach has its limitations.  The patient must have good collateral blood flow and the very long incision can run nearly the entire length of the leg. Ask a few post operation bypass patients and many of them will tell you that the pain from the removal of the great saphenous is often worse than the heart surgery itself.

Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology have some promising research that could make the removal of the great saphenous vein unnecessary in future coronary artery bypass operations.

The technology they are developing allows them to print new blood vessels and capillaries from an ink jet printer. The ink used in the technology is made from artificial cells and medical gel in a solution of calcium chloride. This ink solidifies into a tube with a lining of endothelial cells and an outer case of smooth muscle cells.

The technology isn’t mature enough yet to replace the veins from a patients own body with researchers only being able to create a prototype vessel with an inner diameter of 1 mm and a length of 1 cm. The prototype isn’t strong enough to support blood flow yet either. Tech.co.uk says that once the technology is more mature and robust there is no reason why scientists can’t build up artificial organs from layered, printed sheets using the technology.

The process used in this research is very similar to the research being carried out to help combat diseases like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and other autoimmune disease by Carnegie Melon’s Institute for Complex engineering Systems and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute.

This research was aimed at using ink-jet printing technology to print out muscle and bone cells and uses Stem cells as a component of their ink. The printer developed in the Carnegie Mellon research deposited and immobilized growth factors in virtually any design, pattern or concentration. The patterns were laid down on extracellular matrix-coated slides. The slides were topped with muscle-derived stem cells and directed differentiate into different pathways to make bone or muscle.





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