In this study, teams at the Bioengineering Department at Imperial have developed a solution to this problem. They used a set of techniques to modify surfaces and control how wires, hydrogels (a special type of gel), and the interfaces between the gel and the "world" interact with each other. This wire templating method allowed them to create tiny, rounded, and perfusable capillary-scale networks in the lab. These networks had controllably narrow diameters of around 6.1 ± 0.3 microns at their branching points.
One significant advantage of this method is that it is cost-effective and easy to use. It also works well with a variety of common hydrogels, which can have different levels of stiffness, such as collagen. This flexibility means researchers can create experimental models that more accurately mimic the structure and behaviour of capillaries in the human body.
This innovative technique has the potential to improve the quality of experimental models used to study human health and disease. By creating more realistic capillary networks in the lab, scientists can gain better insights into how our bodies work and how diseases affect these vital microvascular systems. This knowledge could lead to more effective treatments and therapies in the future, benefiting patients and public health.
Capillary-Scale Hydrogel Microchannel Networks by Wire Templating - Small 2023 Jun 2;e2301163.
Shusei Kawara, Brian Cunningham, James Bezer, Neelima Kc, Jingwen Zhu, Meng-Xing Tang, Jun Ishihara, James J Choi, Sam H Au