Aug 4, 2017 | By David

For several years now, medical researchers have been making remarkable breakthroughs by combining 3D printing technology and microfluidics systems, and another recent development in this field has the potential to save many lives. An experiment carried out by a team from the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and the University of Twente in Belgium shed some light on the causes of blood clots in arteries, with the help of a model blood vessel produced using 3D printing.

An arterial blood clot, otherwise known as thrombosis, is potentially fatal and can also lead to heart attacks and strokes, which cause the deaths of over 14 million people worldwide each year. Medical professionals wanting to know more about the way these clots can form benefit hugely from accurate models of blood vessels, which can mimic the interaction between vessel walls and blood flow. The latest model developed by the Dutch and Belgian researchers is the most detailed recreation yet of the three-dimensional geometry of arteries and the patterns of blood flow through them.

The team was investigating the way a blood clot can form due to stenosis defects, which is the narrowing of blood vessels. They took computed tomography angiography (CTA) data of a real blood vessel, and then used stereolithography 3D printing to render the 3D model in physical mould form. This negative mould was then filled with a mixture of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and a crosslinking agent mixture, which was then cured to create a microfludic tube that mimicked the vessel channel.

The walls of the microfluidic chips were coated with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and the devices were then perfused with human whole blood with fluorescently labeled platelets at physiologically relevant shear rates.  The researchers managed to establish the platelet aggregation that leads to formation of a blood clot, and they also observed an increase in the backflow downstream of the stenosis defect.

The success of this novel methodology, which is one of the first 3D modelling of blood flow of its kind, means that many other applications are now possible, and research in this field is poised for a huge leap forward. The team believe that the results produced from this 3D model could be cross-referenced easily with fluid-flow simulations in silico to instil a systems biology approach to research. It’s also feasible for patient-specific blood vessel models to be developed in future.

The way the blood vessels are produced through this 3D printing technique, particularly the highly detailed resolution and flow control that it affords, means that other investigations could be carried out in a similar way. It would be suitable for modelling alternative vascular diseases, including chronic conditions like vascular dementia. This is another area where there is potential for thousands of lives to be saved, and the research possibilities could grow exponentially as the technology becomes standardized. Further development of this model could eventually lead to a fully stratified approach to vascular disease research, which in turn would reduce the number of animals used in research studies.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

Source: medicalphysicsweb

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