For the first time, researchers have 3D printed a “ living ” model of an aneurysm outside the body, using human brain cells.
The breakthrough could one day help brain surgeons with training and high-risk decision-making.
An aneurysm occurs when a bulge or bubble develops at a weak point in a given blood vessel, which can occur in the heart or brain. The weakened wall can eventually rupture, with catastrophic and potentially fatal consequences for the patient.
Considering the very sensitive and delicate areas in which aneurysms occur, they are often extremely difficult to find and treat.
As a potential solution, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), including scientists from Duke University and Texas A&M, have created an external artificial replica that mimics the particular environment in which aneurysms occur.
The 3D printed aneurysm-like structure is made of hydrogel into which human brain cells called hCMEC are introduced, which then spread out and line the walls of the structure, creating a “living” aneurysm that doctors can examine. and work.
One in 50 Americans is affected by brain aneurysms, researchers say.
Right now, the main methods of treating an aneurysm, assuming doctors can find it in time, is to stop the blood flow to the affected area, to prevent possible rupture.
One method, called a surgical cut, involves removing part of a patient’s skull and tightening the aneurysm with a small metal clip.
The other, endovascular coiling, is extremely delicate and involves inserting a catheter into an artery in the groin before it is carefully threaded through the body to the site of the aneurysm, at which point a Reinforcement coil is fed through the catheter and deployed to reinforce the vessel wall.
“We looked at the problem and thought that if we could combine computer modeling and experimental approaches, maybe we could find a more deterministic method of treating aneurysms or of selecting treatments that might best serve the patient.” said William Hynes, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory engineer and senior author.
The LLNL team then pumped blood plasma taken from cows through the structure and performed a successful endovascular coiling operation, with a clot forming at the intended site.
Although artificial aneurysms have been produced before, all of them lacked living human tissue to add more realism and complexity to the exams.
However, the researchers warn that it will likely be a long time before this living 3D-printed aneurysm is ready for use by medical professionals in the field.
The team continues to work on producing more accurate computer modeling of three-dimensional blood clots, with a view to refining their “ living ” artificial aneurysm structures and better reproducing the types of stresses placed on the walls of the blood clots. blood vessels.
Brain scan data from real-world patients will be fed into the computer model on an ongoing basis to further improve the accuracy of the system.
Despite this, the research offers hope of reducing the time it takes to decide on and approve life-saving surgical procedures that would improve survival rates and patient outcomes around the world through more personalized surgical procedures.
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