A team of researchers headed by groups at University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University London have come up with a smart material that forms into new blood vessels.
Made out of graphene oxide and a protein, the material is 3D printed and naturally forms into tubular shapes that are very similar to blood vessels. “This work offers opportunities in biofabrication by enabling simultaneous top-down 3D bioprinting and bottom-up self-assembly of synthetic and biological components in an orderly manner from the nanoscale,” said Alvaro Mata of the University of Nottingham, one of the study leads. “Here, we are biofabricating micro-scale capillary-like fluidic structures that are compatible with cells, exhibit physiologically relevant properties, and have the capacity to withstand flow.”
When graphene oxide and a protein are combined in a controlled way, the two tend to self-assemble into the shapes that they’re guided to form into. In this case, tubular structures was the goal and the researchers were able to create details down to 10 mm in size. Moreover, it was possible to create the artificial vessels with living cells nearby and they showed chemical and physical properties similar to natural blood vessels. “This research introduces a new method to integrate proteins with graphene oxide by self-assembly in a way that can be easily integrated with additive manufacturing to easily fabricate biofluidic devices that allow us replicate key parts of human tissues and organs in the lab,” added Dr. Yuanhao Wu, another study lead.
Top image: Close-up of a tubular structure made through simultaneous printing and self-assembly between graphene oxide and a protein.
Study in Nature Communications: Disordered protein-graphene oxide co-assembly and supramolecular biofabrication of functional fluidic devices