In Brief

Scientists are developing flexible materials to 3D print
blood vessels for treating vascular defects in children. The team
has been awarded a grant totaling $211,000 from the NIH for their

3D-Printed Medical Magic

Since it was introduced, 3D-printing technology has taken the
world by storm. From disrupting the fashion industry to shaking up

traditional home construction
, 3D printing is
fabricating a path for itself into modern society.
Even the medical community is warming up to the new
technology, as the National
Institutes of Health
(NIH) has awarded a $211,000
Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant to an engineer at
the University of Texas at
to develop 3D-printable materials for
developing new
blood vessels for children.

Bioprinting: How 3D Printing is Changing MedicineClick to View Full Infographic

Engineer Yi Hong, in partnership with Guohao Dai of Northeastern University,
is setting his sights on fighting vascular defects in
children. Children are more difficult to treat than adults
because their bodies grow much quicker than any graft,
meaning that these grafts are in need of constant replacement
with multiple invasive surgeries.

In light of this problem, the bioengineering duo is
attempting to create a range of 3D-printed materials that can
be transformed into flexible, patient-specific blood vessels.
These materials can then be mixed with human cells to create
a fixture among biological blood vessels. Their
elasticity could significantly improve the lives of children
with vascular defects who currently need multiple
invasive surgeries per graft. The printed blood vessels might
also reduce the risk of thrombosis compared to that posed by
traditional grafts.

Potential Impact

There are many types of
vascular abnormalities that affect children
. Some
examples include aneurysms,
which are sacs that can form on arteries in the
brain; arteriovenous
, which are tangles of thin, easily ruptured
vessels in the brain or spinal cord; and moyamoya
, which blocks blood flow to the brain due to
constricted arteries. These conditions can cause symptoms
such as headaches, seizures, and even coma. With today’s
therapies, children with vascular defects have it extremely
rough — but if Hong’s project can accomplish its goals,
things could get better.

Hong is confident in his project, and his history in raising
$850,000 in funds from grants for his past projects further
supports that claim. Hong’s method is ambitious, but his
potential success will further solidify 3D printing’s role in
medicine, encouraging other medical scientists to think
outside the box while helping improve the quality of people’s

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