In order to build the macro-network, the initial method used by the group of Lorenzo Moroni, Professor of Biofabrication for regenerative medicine at the University of Maastricht and partner in B2B, it’s a hybrid process between bioprinting and additive manufacturing. As he explains “We first create fibers that correspond to the dimensions of the vessels that we want to make. These fibers are made of a material that can be washed out by a water solution; so, once they are embedded in the gels that comprise the beast or the bone compartments, the fibers can be leached away, leaving their trace as a template.” This template is later covered by endothelial cells, thus forming a network of vessels that is expected to behave as a biological unit.
“While the technique in itself is not new, the innovation relies on the level of branching that we wish to obtain in the same construct.” Indeed, the laboratory of Prof. Moroni at MERLN is currently working to build the full network in one manufacturing session, which imply to fine-tune and control of several processing parameters to recreate the required change of dimensions and number of branching.
The design of the branching within the network needs to be carefully planned too. That’s why the Moroni’s lab takes advantage of computational modelling to figure out how to reproduce a physiological vascular tree. “Classical principle of microfluidics not always mimic very well the natural vessels in our body. We have developed an improved model to better understand the physiological level of branching and the architecture of a branched network”.
While computational power might help, it also brings another challenge: translate the physiological features into machine code and extract from a computational model a real prototype.