Cross-section of a bioprinted tubular structure with endothelial cells (green) on and embedded within the wall. (Credit: University of Nottingham)

Scientists have discovered a new material that can be 3D printed to create tissue-like vascular structures. They can 3D print graphene oxide with a protein, which can organize into tubular structures that replicate some properties of vascular tissue.

The new biomaterial is made by the self-assembly of a protein with graphene oxide. The mechanism of assembly enables the flexible (disordered) regions of the protein to order and conform to the graphene oxide, generating a strong interaction between them. By controlling the way in which the two components are mixed, it is possible to guide their assembly at multiple size scales in the presence of cells and into complex robust structures.

The material can then be used as a 3D printing bioink to print structures with intricate geometries and resolutions down to 10 mm. The team has demonstrated the capacity to build vascular-like structures in the presence of cells and exhibiting biologically relevant chemical and mechanical properties.

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