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Design, fabrication and characterisation of hierarchical branching vascular networks

The main challenge in the research of artificially engineered tissue is the vascularization of tissue. The focus of the project is to develop, with an algorithm, realistic vascular networks in a given three-dimensional space, and the experimental fabrication and study of flow within the networks.

Student

Dulce Aguilar-Garza

Supervisor

Dr Athina Markaki 

Advisor

Dr Ronan Daly

Introduction

Development of engineered artificial tissue has an enormous life-saving potential through the generation of artificial organs for implantation and other research purposes. Currently, the main challenge in tissue engineering is the vascularization of tissue. There is a requirement for human-body-vessel-resembling blood vessel networks that will ensure the proper perfusion to all cells within the living tissue. Inkjet 3D printing is a versatile method for the fabrication of such network structures, as it is a repeatable process that allows reproducibility of the vascular structures.


Aims

The main aim is to design, fabricate and characterise branching vascular networks that resemble those of the human body, within hydrogel materials. This includes three main stages: the construction of a vascular network in a 3D CAD software with help of the appropriate algorithms ensuring the fulfilment of physiologic laws, the exploration of available methods of fabrication for these structures in hydrogels, and characterization of the network structures. A secondary, but equally important aim is to characterise and understand the flow within the vascular channels, and the effects it has on the cellular walls.


Current research

An algorithm has been programmed for the generation of vascular tree structures in a CAD software, for 3D printing. At the current stage, the algorithm is being optimized to produce functional and perfusable vascular network structures.

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