Category Archives: 3-D Printing

3D, real-scale blood brain barrier model used to study new therapeutics


Gianni Ciofani  of ITT Pisa has created a device that reproduces a 1:1 scale model of the blood-brain barrier.  The combination of 3D printed artificial and biological components will allow the study of new therapeutic strategies to overcome the blood-brain barrier and treat brain diseases, including tumors, Alzheimers, and multiple sclerosis.

A laser that scans through a liquid photopolymer and solidifies the material locally and layer by layer built complex 3D objects with submicron resolution.  This enabled the researchers to engineer an accurate real-scale model of the BBB made from a photopolymer resin. Mimicking the brain microcapillaries, the model consists of a microfluidic system of 50 parallel cylindrical channels connected by junctions and featuring pores on the cylinder walls. Each of the tubular structures has a diameter of 10 μm and pores of 1 μm diameter uniformly distributed on all cylinders. After the fabrication of the complex scaffold-like polymer structure, endothelial cells were cultivated around the porous microcapillary system. Covering the 3D printed structure, the cells built a biological barrier resulting in a biohybrid system which resembles its natural model. The device is few millimeters big and fluids can pass through it at the same pressure as blood in brain vessels.

Join ApplySci at Wearable Tech + Digital Health + Neurotech Silicon Valley on February 26-27, 2018 at Stanford University. Speakers include:  Vinod Khosla – Justin Sanchez – Brian Otis – Bryan Johnson – Zhenan Bao – Nathan Intrator – Carla Pugh – Jamshid Ghajar – Mark Kendall – Robert Greenberg – Darin Okuda – Jason Heikenfeld – Bob Knight – Phillip Alvelda – Paul Nuyujukian –  Peter Fischer – Tony Chahine – Shahin Farshchi – Ambar Bhattacharyya – Adam D’Augelli – Juan-Pablo Mas – Shreyas Shah– Walter Greenleaf – Jacobo Penide – David Sarno – Peter Fischer


3D-bioprinted human skin can replace animal testing, potentially be used in burns


José Luis Jorcano at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has developed a 3D bioprinter capable of replicating the structure of skin. The human-like  skin that is produced  includes an epidermal layer that protects against the environment, and a collagen-producing dermis that provides elasticity and strength.

The bioink material  contains human plasma, and  primary human fibroblasts and keratinocytes obtained from biopsies.

Currently, 100 cm2 of the printed skin  is able to be produced in 35 minutes.

ApplySci’s 6th  Digital Health + NeuroTech Silicon Valley  –  February 7-8 2017 @ Stanford   |   Featuring:   Vinod Khosla – Tom Insel – Zhenan Bao – Phillip Alvelda – Nathan Intrator – John Rogers – Roozbeh Ghaffari –Tarun Wadhwa – Eythor Bender – Unity Stoakes – Mounir Zok – Sky Christopherson – Marcus Weldon – Krishna Shenoy – Karl Deisseroth – Shahin Farshchi – Casper de Clercq – Mary Lou Jepsen – Vivek Wadhwa – Dirk Schapeler – Miguel Nicolelis

3D printed renal architecture


Harvard’s Jennifer Lewis and Roche’s  Annie Moisan have used 3D printing to fabricate a small but critical subunit of a kidney.  The renal architecture contains living epithelial cells.

Earlier bioprinting approaches were adapted to form thick tissues.  A 3D-printed silicone gasket was used to cast an engineered extracellular matrix as a base layer. “Fugitive ink” was printed in a shape similar to that of renal proximal tubules, and encapsulated with another layer of extracellular matrix.

The in vitro model functions like living kidney tissue, representing a significant advance from traditional 2D cell culture.  The result could be an implant or assistive device, and/or more effective clinical trials.

Click to view Wyss Institute video.

ApplySci’s 6th   Wearable Tech + Digital Health + NeuroTech Silicon Valley  –  February 7-8 2017 @ Stanford   |   Featuring:   Vinod Khosla – Tom Insel – Zhenan Bao – Phillip Alvelda – Nathan Intrator – John Rogers – Mary Lou Jepsen – Vivek Wadhwa – Miguel Nicolelis – Roozbeh Ghaffari –Tarun Wadhwa – Eythor Bender – Unity Stoakes – Mounir Zok – Krishna Shenoy – Karl Deisseroth

3D printed gel model replicates brain folding mechanism

L. Mahadevan and Harvard colleagues have  used 3D printing to replicate a folding human brain.  The goal is to understand how brain folds are related to disease. While many molecular processes  determine cellular events, the study shows that what ultimately causes the brain to fold is a mechanical instability associated with buckling.
A 3D  gel model of a smooth fetal brain was created based on MRI images. To mimic cortical expansion, the gel brain was immersed in a solvent that is absorbed by the outer layer, causing it to swell relative to the deeper regions. The resulting compression led to the formation of folds similar in size and shape to real brains.
In humans, folding begins in fetal brains at the 20th week of gestation,  and is completed at a year and a half. The number, size, shape and position of neuronal cells during brain growth lead to the expansion of the cortex (gray matter), relative to the underlying white matter. The scientists said that this puts the cortex under compression, leading to a mechanical instability that causes it to crease locally. They believe that if a part of the brain does not grow properly, or if the global geometry is disrupted, the major folds may not be in the right place, which may cause dysfunction.

Wearable Tech + Digital health San Francisco – April 5, 2016 @ the Mission Bay Conference Center

NeuroTech San Francisco – April 6, 2016 @ the Misson Bay Conference Center

Wearable Tech + Digital Health NYC – June 7, 2016 @ the New York Academy of Sciences

NeuroTech San Francisco – June 8, 2016 @ the New York Academy of Sciences

3D printed model for brain aneurysm surgery planning


Stratasys and the Jacobs Institute have used 3D printing for brain surgery planning in an effort to reduce risk. Anatomical models of a patient’s entire brain vessel anatomy were 3D printed before she underwent an aneurysm procedure.

The replica, built of a polymer that mimics human tissue, allowing the surgeons to plan their approach and practice the operation, was based on CT scans.

In this case. the accurate model enabled surgeons to fine-tune the procedure.  “While we were doing that mock procedure, we realized that we had to change some of the tools we wanted to use, given her anatomy,” said  Adnan Siddiqui, Jacobs’ Chief Medical Officer.



Toward a 3D printed heart


Carnegie Mellon‘s Adam Feinberg is developing 3D printing techniques that could in the future be used to repair the heart.  This work is aimed at alternative solutions for the 4,000 Americans currently waiting to receive a heart transplant.

Feinberg described his progress:  “We’ve been able to take MRI images of coronary arteries and 3-D images of embryonic hearts and 3-D bioprint them with unprecedented resolution and quality out of very soft materials like collagens, alginates and fibrins.”

The next step is to incorporate real heart cells into these 3-D printed tissue structures, providing a scaffold to help form contractile muscle.

Click to view Carnegie Mellon video.



Faster, personalized, 3D printed heart models for surgery planning


MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers are converting heart MRI scans into 3D printed physical models,  for surgical planning,  in 3-4 hours.  Previously, the process took 10 hours. The project, which limits human input to increase accuracy, is led by Professor Polina Golland.  Physicist Medhi Moghari enhanced the precision of the MRI, decreasing the dependence on generic models, and enabling the the team to create the algorithm and print the model in the shorter time frame.

The algorithm examines patches of unsegmented cross sections and looks for similar features in the nearest segmented cross sections. Golland believes that its performance might be improved if it also examined patches that ran obliquely across several cross sections, which will be the next phase of research.

Cheap, accurate, 3D printed stethoscope


Dr. Tarek Loubani has created a 3D printed stethoscope that can be made for $2.50 – $5.00.  Stethoscopes usually cost $150 and are often not available in poor regions.

Through his Glia Project, Dr. Loubani aims to provide cheap, accurate medical supplies, including stethoscopes, electrocardiograms, and pulse oximeters,  to places in need.

“This is simple, cheap and it’s enough for us here,” said Dr. Ayman Sahbani, head of the emergency department at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, who tested the Glia stethoscope. “Now we can make a stethoscope available for each doctor.”

Cancer patient receives 3D printed rib cage


For the first time, a chest wall sarcoma patient has received a  fully customized 3d printed sternum and rib cage portion, created using high resolution CT data.

This part of the chest is difficult to recreate with traditional prosthetics.  Thoracic surgeons typically use flat and plate implants for the chest, which can loosen over time and increase complications.  Rapidly prototyped 3D printed ribs may become the future standard.

View CSIRO video here.

3D printed airway splints restore breathing


At the University of Michigan, three children under 2 with tracheobronchomalacia had 3D printed devices implanted to open their airways and restore their breathing.

Professors Glenn Green and Scott Hollister were able to create and implant customized tracheal splints for each patient. The device was created directly from CT scans of their tracheas, integrating an image-based computer model with laser-based 3D printing to produce the splint.

The splint was sewn around the patient’s airways to expand the trachea and bronchus and give it a skeleton to aid proper growth. It is designed to be reabsorbed by the body over time. The growth of the airways were followed with CT and MRI scans, and it was shown to allow airway growth for all three patients.

The findings suggest that early treatment of tracheobronchomalacia may prevent complications of conventional treatment such as a tracheostomy, prolonged hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, cardiac and respiratory arrest, food malabsorption and discomfort. None of the devices implanted in this study have caused complications.

The bioresorable splints enabled the patients to come off of ventilators and ended their need for paralytics, narcotics and sedation.  Researchers noted improvements in multiple organ systems.  The patients were also relieved of immunodeficiency-causing proteins that prevented them from absorbing food so that they no longer needed intravenous therapy.