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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.