3D printing technology has revolutionised every industry that it has touched upon since its first release. From the fashion industry to traditional home construction, it has created its own unique path into the modern world. Now it seems that it is revolutionising the medical world, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $211,000 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant to an engineer from the University of Texas at Arlington, which will be used to develop 3D-printable materials for developing new blood vessels for children.
According to recent reports, in partnership with Guohao Dai of Northeastern University, Engineer Yi Hong is working to fight vascular defects in children. It is commonly understood that children are a lot more difficult to treat compared to adults, because their young bodies are still constantly changing and developing, which also means that they are growing faster than any graft. This results in the need for a constant replacement with multiple invasive surgeries.
Through bioengineering technology, an attempt is now being made to use a range of 3D printed materials to create flexible, patient-specific blood vessels. Following this, the materials created will then be mixed with human cells, which will create a fixture among biological blood vessels. The elasticity of these could improve the lives of the children who have vascular defects, and were previously having multiple invasive surgeries per graft. In addition to this, reports also state that the printed blood vessels could reduce the risk of thrombosis compared to that posed by traditional grafts.
The many different types of vascular abnormalities that affect children include aneurysms, which are sacs that can form on arteries in the brain; arteriovenous malformations, which are tangles of thin, easily ruptured vessels in the brain or spinal cord; and moyamoya disease, which blocks blood flow to the brain due to constricted arteries. These conditions can cause symptoms such as headaches, seizures, and even a coma. The current therapies for these mean that children are suffering, which will hopefully be something that will be dramatically reduced if Hong’s project is a success.
Although Hong’s method is seen as ambitious, he is confident in his project, and has had huge success in the past. The project could also inspire other medical scientists to experiment with unique and different ideas which could potentially improve the lives of thousands of children.
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