ASU 3D printing advances cerebral aneurysm research

Health services are being greatly advanced through 3D printing, and obviously thanks also to the human brain, the true innovation powerhouse. So health services for the brain are of utmost importance to the continuation of human advancement in general. Cerebral aneurysms are one of the brain’s greatest perils, and researching solutions is doubly difficult due to the sensitivity and necessity of the thoughtful organ. Probing around grey matter has its own risks, so the more observation that can be studied externally, the better. This is where 3D printing is doing its part to protect our precious thinkbox; by using MRI scans to map the blood vessels in the brains of those with aneurysms, researchers at Arizona State University can recreate those vessels in physical models with the aid of Solidscape 3D printing to better understand the effects of devices that are intended to prevent aneurysms from rupturing.

A cerebral aneurysm is a pocket that forms on the side of a blood vessel in the brain, and that pocket, if it ruptures, will push blood into cavities of the brain where it does not belong. Obviously chances of surviving a ruptured cerebral aneurysm are low, so that’s what motivates Dr. David Frakes, Principal Investigator at the Image Processing Applications Laboratory of ASU, in his pursuit of improving treatments for aneurysms. Blood pressure and flow are important metrics in studying aneurysms, but in very specific areas of the vessels, so it’s useful to observe models under various simulated conditions to get a good picture of what does/can happen, especially since filming actual aneurysms is rather difficult, and super sad. Generally in medicine if it’s not advisable to test on and observe real people, then it’s best to get the analogue as realistic as possible. As such, the ASU team creates blocks of clear resin that have hollowed vessels in the exact shapes of the aneurysms of real people. They do that by printing an MRI-acquired solid-vessel “positive” model with a Solidscape printer, and then casting a “negative” model off of the printed one to achieve the hollow vessels. Technically the end product could be printed, but it’s more cost effective to do it this way.

Blood vessel models that we then translate into transparent flow models for our experiments. Source: Solidscape

This research could lead to more effective treatments for aneurysms, which affect an estimated 5% of the population. The human brain makes humans stand out. It gives us enhanced creativity and deeper emotions. It’s what facilitates my writing and your reading of this. Any more knowledge of the brain and how to keep it healthy is invaluable, and I’m glad 3D printing makes it more accessible.

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