Artificial blood vessels created in the laboratory with a 3D printer could be used in organ transplantation soon .
The major obstacle encountered so far in creating artificial tissues was supplying them with nutrients, which is done naturally through capillaries.
A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has solved this problem by using a 3D printer and a technique called two-photon polymerisation.
There are thousands of patients who desperately needed a transplant and some fail to obtain it in time. Over 11,000 people were put on the waiting list for organ transplantation in Germany only in 2011.
To save as many lives as they can, researchers around the world working in the field of tissue engineering have attempted to create in the laboratory artificial tissues and even whole organs.
"The individual techniques are already functioning and they are presently working in the test phase; the prototype for the combined system is being built," said Dr. Günter Tovar, BioRap ongoing project leader at Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart. 3D printing technology is used more and more in many industries (the production of clothing items and creating architectural models to modeling chocolate figurines).
Something as delicate and complex as blood vessel is really hard to be printed. Scientists combined 3D printing technology with two-photon polymerisation. Three-dimensional printing technology researchers combined with the polymerization bifotonice - using laser beams to stimulate the molecules in minuscule focus points.
The material gets solid but flexible, allowing researchers to accurately model the elastic structure that can be tolerated by body tissues.
"We are establishing a basis for applying rapid prototyping to elastic and organic biomaterials," said Dr Tovar.