3D-Printed Blood Vessels: The Tech Just Became Scalable with Mathematica and the Wolfram Language

"If there's a known algorithm, we want an optimal implementation; if there isn't, we want to invent one." - Greg Hurst of Wolfram Research took one of the company's mission statements very seriously. Thousands of existing algorithms couldn't solve a problem, so he created one.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Sept. 20, 2018 — (PRNewswire) —  Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Wolfram Research have developed a novel 3D-printing method called bioprinting that uses isomalt, a type of sugar found in throat lozenges, to generate physiological vasculature. The interdisciplinary method combines mechanical engineering, computational geometry, materials science and theoretical computer science to expand existing bioprinting methods to any shape and size.

Applications of the sugary network structures include biomedical engineering, computer chip manufacturing, and oncology, owed to a computational approach of algorithmically determining printing sequences of the structures. The algorithm prevents the isomalt fiber networks from being destroyed during the printing process by controlling the direction of the robotic nozzle that extrudes isomalt—imagine navigating a maze of possibilities without crossing the same path twice within certain parameters.

See a video of an isomalt model being printed here: https://youtu.be/kxpLZRfrmjE

Greg Hurst, developer at Wolfram Research, used the company's flagship program Mathematica to create the algorithm. "This problem spans many disciplines. Computational geometry is needed for collision detection, NP-complete graph problems—like finding cliques—need to be solved and sparse matrix solvers need to be invoked thousands of times throughout. With the Wolfram Language, I was able to hammer out fast code in a matter of weeks," said Hurst.

A paper outlining the process was recently published in the journal Additive Manufacturing, in which the researchers describe their free-form printing method, wherein the printing device extrudes isomalt as it hardens through the air—allowing delicate vascular networks to take shape in a way that more closely resembles organic structures. Since isomalt is water-soluble, there is the potential for tissue to grow within the structures that then melt away, conceivably leaving behind something like a cellular structure, or even an organ.

Further details are on the Wolfram B log.

About Wolfram Research

Wolfram has been defining the computational future for three decades. As the creators of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language, Wolfram is the leader in developing technology and tools that inject sophisticated computational intelligence into everything. Learn more at www.wolfram.com.


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