Brain aneurysms, which affect as many as one in 50 people, occur when a blood vessel wall weakens and bulges, setting the scene for a potentially deadly rupture. Now scientists have created a 3-D-printed aneurysm model in the laboratory and “operated” on it: they inserted a device to seal it off and prevent it from bursting. Such models could be tailored to replicate an individual patient’s blood vessel, letting doctors try different treatments and find the best solution.
To treat an aneurysm, brain surgeons sometimes operate to install a metal clip on the ballooning vessel that prevents the pooling of blood. A less invasive method involves inserting tiny metal coils into the aneurysm via a catheter to induce a blood clot that seals it off. Most treatment devices are tested in animals, whose blood vessels do not perfectly resemble those in humans. And previous lab-dish aneurysms could not mimic the properties of living blood vessels. “We thought maybe there could be a better way of testing those [treatment] devices,” says Lindy Jang, a biomedical engineering graduate student at Texas A&M University, who led the new study, published in Biofabrication.
Jang and her colleagues 3-D-printed an aneurysm structure with a water-based gel and populated it with human cells that line the brain’s blood vessels. They then operated on the aneurysm, injecting platinum coils into the bulging vessel. Finally, they filled the blood vessel with plasma (the liquid component of blood), which formed a clot that sealed off the bulge.
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