Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – 3D Printed Stent Made of Sugar

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Engineers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have designed a 3d printed stent made of sugar. The stent fits inside the adjacent ends of a clipped artery providing support as a surgeon stitches it together. In animal models the stent reduced stitching time, normally a painstaking and time consuming process, by two-thirds. Once blood flow returns the artery, the stent dissolves and is swept into the bloodstream. 

 

A rendering of a millimeter-scale, sugar-based stent designed by Nebraska's Ali Tamayol and his colleagues.
A rendering of a millimeter-scale, sugar-based stent designed by Nebraska's Ali Tamayol and his colleagues.
Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“One thing that I really like about this concept: We are always trying to avoid sugar,” said Ali Tamayol, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Everyone knows that sugar is (sometimes) bad. But here we found an application in which it’s good.”

 

From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln article: "In designing the stent, the researchers came up with a checklist of essential properties. It needed some flexibility — too brittle, and it could break during suturing — so the team added a glucose derivative called dextran. It needed enough stickiness to bind with the arteries, which glucose itself provided, plus a large dose of sucrose to help combat blood clotting. And it needed a pinch of sodium citrate to further diminish any chance of clotting when the stent dissolved.

The recipe was simple enough. But arteries, like the people who contain them, come in multiple sizes. So the team turned to 3D printing as a means of customizing the stent’s diameter to individuals and areas of the body. By dissolving their sugar-based concoction in water and baking the solution until most of the water evaporated, the researchers produced a molten ink that’s fluid enough to print but viscous enough to solidify in minutes."

 

Read more about the 3D printed stent made of sugar at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.