Engineering a Capillary Network

Creating networks of tiny blood vessels is a major hurdle in tissue engineering. Fortunately, many groups are working away on a variety of strategies to address this issue. From Chemical Science: "Candy floss (also known as cotton candy) has been used by US scientists to create a web of microscopic tubes to mimic the capillary network that carries blood to human tissue. [Researchers] mimicked the capillary network structure by sticking two sugar rods to a candy floss ball. They poured a molten polymer over the candy floss, left it to solidify, then dissolved the sugar, leaving a complex network of channels connecting two larger inlet and outlet channels. They then injected fluorescently labelled blood into the system and followed its progress using a video fluorescence microscope. They found that the blood flowed through as it would in a real system. [This] method addresses a limitation in tissue engineering: how to make an artificial vascular system for the new tissue. Since blood can only diffuse a few hundred micrometres from a capillary, organs need these networks to deliver oxygen and nutrients to every cell. His technique is cheaper and less time consuming than existing methods for making the networks, such as layer-by-layer 2D structure stacking or 3D printing, where templates for growing cells are built up."



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