3D printed artery monitors blockages from the inside

Engineers are developing a 3D printed artificial blood vessel that allows doctors and patients to keep tabs on its health remotely.

Photo
The implantable, 3D-printed artificial blood vessel is made of a flexible composite and capable of real-time monitoring.
Source: Xudong Wang

When surgeons replace part of a blood vessel — something they do in 450,000 patients per year in the United States to treat blood clots, coronary disease, stroke damage and more — the grafted vessel is monitored by CT scans, ultrasounds and other expensive imaging techniques. Despite all that effort, between 40% and 50% of those grafts fail.

That’s one reason University of Wisconsin–Madison materials science engineers are developing a new, 3D-printed artificial blood vessel that allows doctors and patients to keep tabs on its health remotely.

The implantable vessel, made of a flexible composite and capable of real-time monitoring. “This artificial vessel can produce electric pulses based on pressure fluctuation which will be able to tell precisely the blood pressure in the vessel without using any additional power source,” says UW–Madison professor Xudong Wang. “And because of the 3D geometry, the electric pulse profile will be able to tell if there is an irregular motion due to blockage inside in the very early stages.”

The artery project stems from Wang’s long-term research interest in new soft, flexible materials that are piezoelectric (able to produce an electric charge from mechanical stress) and biocompatible (able to be used in the human body without causing rejection or damage).

The team combined sodium potassium niobite piezoceramic nanoparticles with a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer which is ferroelectric, or able to flip polarity when an electric field is applied. They then printed a tubular artery using the material and an off-the-shelf 3D printer. The printer extrudes the material through a strong electric field close to the nozzle to polarize the ceramic particles, giving the structure its piezoelectric property.

Graduate student Jun Li put the artificial artery through its paces, hooking it up to an artificial heart system before simulating blockages, high blood pressure and other issues that face artificial blood vessels. The self-powered material was able to correctly detect changes in force and pressure within the artery.

The researchers’ next step is to optimize the production of the new ferroelectric composite and the 3D printing process. The team also wants to find ways to make the printed 3D structure even more sensitive, and plans to collaborate with researchers in the biomedical field to test the artery with even more realistic models of the circulatory system.

Additionally, they hope to use the new material to print artificial heart valves. Replacement heart valves are typically either mechanical or taken from human or animal donors, and none incorporate the type of self-monitoring found in Wang’s material. The team, which includes collaborators from UW–Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health and Zhejiang University in China, believes that in the future it may be possible to use the ferroelectric biomaterial and 3D printer to create other custom, artificial organs.

While researchers are working on many other types of artificial blood vessels and organs, Wang thinks this technique has some advantages over more complicated techniques. “This is an easy, scalable technology,” he says. “Our new printable composite material allows us to make a 3D structure in one step that can show multi-functionality right out of manufacture.”

The research was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

3D biocomposites can repair large bone defects

3D biocomposites can repair large bone defects

Loosening hip implants can cause major damage to the bone and a simple replacement won’t suffice to carry the load during movements. Researchers have turned to bioprinting to solve this problem.

Bioprinted heart provides new tool for surgeons

Bioprinted heart provides new tool for surgeons

Surgeons will soon have a powerful new tool for planning and practice with the creation of the first full-sized 3D bioprinted model of the human heart.

A 3D printed device to excite nerves

A 3D printed device to excite nerves

A tiny, thin-film electrode with a 3D-printed housing has been implanted in the peripheral nervous system of songbirds, where it successfully recorded electrical impulses that drive vocalizations.

3D printed lifelike heart valve models

3D printed lifelike heart valve models

Researchers have developed a groundbreaking process for multi-material 3D printing of lifelike models of the heart's aortic valve and the surrounding structures.

Bioprinting tissues directly within the body

Bioprinting tissues directly within the body

Researchers take a step closer to 3D printing living tissues in patients as they develop a specially-formulated bio-ink designed for printing directly in the body.

World first in 3D printed self-expandable stents

World first in 3D printed self-expandable stents

Researchers from CSIRO have made it possible to 3D print tailor-made stents, a critical biomedical device used to treat narrow or blocked arteries.

Reverse 3D printing to make tiny implants

Reverse 3D printing to make tiny implants

Researchers have developed a 3D printing technique that allows them to create incredibly small and complex biomedical implants.

Imaging technique to improve bioprinted implants

Imaging technique to improve bioprinted implants

Scientists have developed a new microscopic imaging approach to take a closer look at 3D printing for developing future patient implants, as well as improved disease modelling and drug screening.

Researchers use bioprinting to create nose cartilage

Researchers use bioprinting to create nose cartilage

Researchers have used 3D bioprinting technology to create custom-shaped cartilage. They aim to make it easier for surgeons to safely restore the features of skin cancer patients living with nasal cartilage defects after surgery.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter