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Multivascular networks and functional intravascular topologies within biocompatible hydrogels

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Science  03 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6439, pp. 458-464
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav9750

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Routes to independent vessel networks

In air-breathing vertebrates, the circulatory and pulmonary systems contain separate networks of channels that intertwine but do not intersect with each other. Recreating such structures within cell-compatible materials has been a major challenge; even a single vasculature system can be a burden to create. Grigoryan et al. show that natural and synthetic food dyes can be used as photoabsorbers that enable stereolithographic production of hydrogels containing intricate and functional vascular architectures. Using this approach, they demonstrate functional vascular topologies for studies of fluid mixers, valves, intervascular transport, nutrient delivery, and host engraftment.

Science, this issue p. 458

Abstract

Solid organs transport fluids through distinct vascular networks that are biophysically and biochemically entangled, creating complex three-dimensional (3D) transport regimes that have remained difficult to produce and study. We establish intravascular and multivascular design freedoms with photopolymerizable hydrogels by using food dye additives as biocompatible yet potent photoabsorbers for projection stereolithography. We demonstrate monolithic transparent hydrogels, produced in minutes, comprising efficient intravascular 3D fluid mixers and functional bicuspid valves. We further elaborate entangled vascular networks from space-filling mathematical topologies and explore the oxygenation and flow of human red blood cells during tidal ventilation and distension of a proximate airway. In addition, we deploy structured biodegradable hydrogel carriers in a rodent model of chronic liver injury to highlight the potential translational utility of this materials innovation.

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