Engineering biofunctional in vitro vessel models using a multilayer bioprinting technique

Jan Schöneberg, Federica De Lorenzi, Benjamin Theek, Andreas Blaeser, Dirk Rommel, Alexander J C Kuehne, Fabian Kießling, Horst Fischer

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 11;8(1):10430.


Recent advances in the field of bioprinting have led to the development of perfusable complex structures. However, most of the existing printed vascular channels lack the composition or key structural and physiological features of natural blood vessels or they make use of more easily printable but less biocompatible hydrogels. Here, we use a drop-on-demand bioprinting technique to generate in vitro blood vessel models, consisting of a continuous endothelium imitating the tunica intima, an elastic smooth muscle cell layer mimicking the tunica media, and a surrounding fibrous and collagenous matrix of fibroblasts mimicking the tunica adventitia. These vessel models with a wall thickness of up to 425 µm and a diameter of about 1 mm were dynamically cultivated in fluidic bioreactors for up to three weeks under physiological flow conditions. High cell viability (>83%) after printing and the expression of VE-Cadherin, smooth muscle actin, and collagen IV were observed throughout the cultivation period. It can be concluded that the proposed novel technique is suitable to achieve perfusable vessel models with a biofunctional multilayer wall composition. Such structures hold potential for the creation of more physiologically relevant in vitro disease models suitable especially as platforms for the pre-screening of drugs.