It sounds like something out of a horror film: scientists have created a living brain aneurysm using 3D-printed human brain cells and blood.
Caused by a weakening in the artery walls, brain aneurysms are characterised by a “ballooning” or bulging of a blood vessel in the brain and can be fatal if they burst.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) created a living, bioprinted aneurysm so that researchers could operate on it.
A team led by engineers William “Rick” Hynes and Monica Moya 3D-printed blood vessels with human cerebral cells.
Read more: Signs and symptoms of a brain aneurysm
Hynes performed a repair procedure on the printed aneurysm and inserted a catheter into the blood vessel before tightly packing platinum coils inside the aneurysm sac.
The researchers introduced blood plasma into the aneurysm and observed the formation of a blood clot where the coils were located, cutting it off from fluid flow.
The researchers also were able to observe the “post-op” healing process of the cells within the vessels.
LLNL scientists said the platform, when combined with computer modelling, could allow researchers to design treatments specific to each patient.
“While there are a lot of promising treatment options, some still have a long way to go,” said Moya, the project’s lead investigator.
“Animal models aren’t necessarily the best way to try out these options, as they lack direct observation of treatment effects and have uncontrollable aneurysm geometries.
“Having this robust, human in vitro testing platform could help facilitate new treatments. If we can replicate aneurysms as much as we need to with these devices, we might help accelerate some of these products into the clinic and essentially provide patients with better treatment options.”
The researchers believe the new testing platform could lead to more personalised treatments for people with brain aneurysms.
Hynes said: “We looked at the problem and thought that if we could pair computational modelling and experimental approaches, maybe we could come up with a more deterministic method of treating aneurysms or selecting treatments that could best serve the patient.
“Now we can start to build the framework of a personalised model that a surgical practitioner could use to determine the best method for treating an aneurysm.”
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