Researchers at Northwestern University, the same institute behind this month’s 3D printed hyperelastic bones, have now managed to 3D print bio-degradable stents. The tubes that are usually used to treat narrow or weak arteries, have been fabricated out of a citrus-based polymer. As a man-made structure the stents have the potential to be loaded with anti-coagulant, therefore limiting the risk of complications when used in the body.

Engineers behind the discovery, Guillermo Ameer and Cheng Sun, have used stereo-lithography at a micro level to make the stent, in a process termed micro continuous liquid interface production (microCLIP). This technique allows an accuracy that usually relies solely upon a surgeon’s experience to be effective, as Ameer explained in a press release:

Right now, the vast majority of stents are made from a metal and have off-the-shelf availability in various size. The physician has to guess which stent size is a good fit to keep the blood vessel open. But we’re all different and results are highly dependent on physician experience, so that’s not an optimal solution.

A complete paper on Ameer and Sun’s research is available through Advanced Materials Technologies. Seen below is a microscopic-level photograph comparison of a stent using the conventional method of fabrication to the one made using microCLIP.

A figure featured in: 3D-Printing Strong High-Resolution Antioxidant Bioresorbable Vascular Stents by Guillermo Ameer and Cheng Sun

A figure featured in: 3D-Printing Strong High-Resolution Antioxidant Bioresorbable Vascular Stents by Guillermo Ameer and Cheng Sun

As you can see the structure of the 3D printed component is a lot smoother than in regular practice.

The team from Northwestern have also produced a video of the microCLIP, the process takes less than four minutes to fabricate up to 100 components at time – a fraction of the time taken by traditional manufacturing methods. To learn more watch the below:

3D-Printing Vascular Stent from Northwestern Engineering on Vimeo.

Featured image: An artist’s rendering of a heart stent in place, via Healthwise Incorporated.

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