New 3D-printing technique - applications in vessel-opening stents and drug delivery
Hydrogels are gloopy polymers capable of storing liquids – often they’re biocompatible, at home inside the human body, with tremendous potential for delivering drugs. Here a new 3D-printing technique uses blasts of UV light to stick or 'cure' a shape memory polymer (yellow) to a red-coloured hydrogel in precise patterns. This twisted mesh is a prototype for a new type of stent, similar to those routinely used to prop open damaged blood vessels, only with a few surprises. First, the hydrogel isn’t red at all, but carrying a red-coloured dye. Inside an artificial blood vessel, over a period of three hours, the stent opens up as the shape memory polymer expands in the 37-degree heat, expanding a scaffold inside the collapsed vessel, but also prompting the hydrogel to release its cargo – which may one day be life-supporting chemicals.
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