Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Assembly Lines
05 December 2012

Assembly Lines

The London Underground may have taken decades to build, but the thriving network of blood vessels pictured was created in less than a day – a collaborative effort between human cells and man-made technology. Using a 3D printer, a frame of tiny poles was moulded out of biodegradable glass. Inside in a gel-like substance similar to human tissue, the frame was melted away – allowing human cells to get to work in the tiny excavated tunnels left behind. Endothelial cells (highlighted here in red) quickly lined the tunnels, taking position as they would do in a developing embryo to form blood vessels. At this vessel junction – 40,000 times smaller than Baker Street tube station – stem cells (highlighted in green) have also begun to gather, suggesting that these prefabricated vessels could be compatible with human tissues and raising hope for future, computer-designed transplants.

Written by John Ankers

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