Novel 3D-bioprinted blood vessels could be the cure for cardiovascular diseases

The researchers formed a double-network hydrogel bioink that can print conduits in living tissue.
Nergis Firtina
Blood vessels.
Blood vessels.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) describes any disease that affects the circulatory system. Especially heart diseases, diseases affecting the brain and kidney vessels, and peripheral vascular diseases fall into this group.

Blood vessels, which carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients, can narrow or become blocked in people with CVD, which can result in a number of issues. Most of the time, CVDs cause deaths.

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital have improved 3D bioprinting of vascular tissues with functional and mechanical signatures to address these problems. The results have recently been published today in Science Advances.

Novel 3D-bioprinted blood vessels could be the cure for cardiovascular diseases
Bioengineered blood vessels demonstrated physiological characteristics of real blood vessels.

How did they manage?

The team formed a double-network hydrogel bioink that can print conduits in living tissue by utilizing the crosslinking capabilities of natural polymers. In addition to robust vasoconstriction, vasodilation, perfusability, and barrier performance comparable to native vasculature, these conduits also exhibited other important physiological traits of blood vessels.

The researchers also demonstrated the potential for using these vessels for SARS-CoV-2 pseudo-viral testing in conjunction with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The vessels we have printed truly mimic a lot of the mechanics of native vessels,” said senior corresponding author, Y. Shrike Zhang, Ph.D., of the Division of Engineering in Medicine.

“This research demonstrates the potential for such conduits to serve as vascular models for grafts in vascular surgeries, other disease studies, and broad biomedical applications.”

The other co-corresponding authors included Xuanhe Zhao, Ph.D., of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and C. Keith Ozaki, MD, of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the Brigham.

One person dies in the US every 34 seconds

According to CDC, one person dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds in the US. Also, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both sexes and for members of the majority of racial and ethnic groups.

American College of Cardiology also suggests that poor lifestyle behaviors are the biggest cause of death and disability in the United States. Factors like smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet have a major impact on cardiovascular risk.

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Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting of vascular tissues that are mechanically and functionally comparable to their native counterparts is an unmet challenge. Here, we developed a tough double-network hydrogel (bio)ink for microfluidic (bio)printing of mono- and dual-layered hollow conduits to recreate vein- and artery-like tissues, respectively. The tough hydrogel consisted of energy-dissipative ionically cross-linked alginate and elastic enzyme–cross-linked gelatin. The 3D bioprinted venous and arterial conduits exhibited key functionalities of respective vessels including relevant mechanical properties, perfusability, barrier performance, expressions of specific markers, and susceptibility to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pseudo-viral infection. Notably, the arterial conduits revealed physiological vasoconstriction and vasodilatation responses. We further explored the feasibility of these conduits for vascular anastomosis. Together, our study presents biofabrication of mechanically and functionally relevant vascular conduits, showcasing their potentials as vascular models for disease studies in vitro and as grafts for vascular surgeries in vivo, possibly serving broad biomedical applications in the future.

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