Researchers in the Netherlands have now 3D-printed a more accurate blood-vessel model that effectively replicates the formation of a blood clot caused by stenosis defects, the narrowing of a blood vessel that can lead to disease (Lab on a Chip 18 1). The researchers, from the University of Twente and Utrecht University, developed a microfluidic blood-vessel model using layered stacks of computed tomography angiography (CTA) data combined with sterolithography, a light-based 3D-printing process.
The anatomically accurate blood vessel model developed by these researchers achieves an even distribution of shear stress across the vessel, which makes it much more clinically relevant than typical in vitromodels. The key difference is the geometry of the fabricated blood vessel, since most previous microfluidic models have been produced with a square channel where vessel cells can be seeded and perfusion can occur. These square channel walls do not provide an accurate representation of a blood vessel, with differing shear forces being applied to the corners and flat sections of the square vessel.
Results produced from this 3D-printed model can be cross-referenced easily with fluid-flow simulations in silico to instil a systems biology approach to research, and the researchers believe the use of patient CTA data could lead to the development of patient specific blood-vessel models. The resolution and control of the blood vessels produced by the technique also makes it suitable for modelling alternative vascular diseases, including chronic conditions like vascular dementia. 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.