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WSU team developing 3D printing method to create customizable blood vessels

A research team led by Mai Lam, Ph.D., published a method to engineer scalable and customizable vascular grafts in JoVE’s Video Journal, the world’s first peer-reviewed scientific video journal. The article demonstrates a method that may lead to new and improved ways of treating coronary artery disease. Dr. Lam is an assistant professor in the Wayne State University Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Cardiovascular Research Institute in the WSU School of Medicine.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide, according to the American Heart Association’s 2016 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure and arrhythmias.

Current treatments for CAD frequently involve harvesting a patient’s own blood vessels as graft material for bypass surgery. Frequently, ill patients do not have viable vessels to donate autologously. Even when patient blood vessels can be harvested, the donor site causes considerable additional harm and has a serious risk for infection.

While other methods exist for engineering vascular grafts, these methods are not easily scalable to produce grafts in the variety of sizes that clinicians need to treat individual patients. Dr.Lam’s published video article demonstrates how engineered blood vessels can be readily manufactured in a variety of dimensions and lengths to meet the needs of the clinic and patient. An additional benefit of Lam’s method is that vascular grafts can be produced in two to three weeks, much faster than existing engineering techniques. In treating patients who are critically ill and in rapidly deteriorating health, this time discrepancy can make a significant difference in the patient outcome.

“The method of engineering vascular grafts that my research team at Wayne State University developed may lead to a profound difference in the way coronary heart disease is treated,” she said. “In light of the potential impact this method may have in treating a global leading cause of death, we elected to publish our experiment in JoVE Video Journal so that clinicians around the world will have access to a video demonstration detailing how to replicate this important technique.”