POSTECH: 3D Printed Occluder that Mimics Coronary Atherosclerosis

Animal models, which provide a way to experiment by administering new drugs or inducing conditions in living animals in lieu of humans, have contributed greatly to the elucidation of how living things function. But due to interpersonal variation, obtaining a similar level of functional outcomes is difficult even when identical approach is used. To this, a Korean research team has succeeded in mimicking the atherosclerotic coronary artery using a 3D-printing system to reduce the number of unnecessary animal models.

A POSTECH research team – led by Professor Jinah Jang and Ph.D. candidate Seungman Jung of the Department of Convergence IT Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with Professor Young J. Hong and Han B. Kim of Division of Cardiology at the Chonnam National University Medical School – has successfully developed a customized 3D-printed occlude, applicable in inducing myocardial infarction in swine models. These research findings were recently published in Bio-Design and Manufacturing, an authoritative journal on bioprocessing.

Pre-clinical animal study refers to investigating the therapeutic and toxic effects of new drugs or medical devices in various types of animals before using them on humans. At this stage, it is important to secure reproducibility to obtain results close to the actual efficacy. Swine models have a very similar organ structure to that of humans and are widely used in pre-clinical studies.

The myocardial infarction model – a representative disease among animal models to verify the efficacy of heart disease treatments – is widely used to evaluate the effect of stem cells or tissue engineering technology on ischemic heart diseases. Several methods are used to induce myocardial infarction in the swine model but the efficiency is mostly determined by the skill of the experimenter, which leads to a large discrepancy between experimental subjects. In addition, the conventional approaches block 100% of the coronary arteries, causing a high mortality rate in the swine model, which results in a steep increase to the experimental cost.

돼지 심근경색 모델 제작용 맞춤형 3D 프린팅 폐색기

To minimize human intervention and increase accuracy, the researchers introduced a 3D-printing system. Angiography was performed on a swine model to measure the diameter of the coronary artery and based on this, they developed a customized occluder that mimics an atherosclerotic coronary artery with an approximately 20% blocked condition. This newly developed occluder can provide continuous blood flow through the central pore, which is effective in inducing myocardial infarction and has a high survival rate (88%) of up to 28 days. This is a much higher rate than the conventional representative closed-chest method (50% survival rate) and can be used to mimic other ischemic cardiovascular diseases such as chronic heart failure.

“In order to evaluate the safety and efficacy of stem cells and advanced bio-convergence products, reliable large-animal models are imperative,” explained Professor Jinah Jang who led the study. “The 3D-printed occluder shows promise to enable researchers to use animal models in a more accurate and convenient manner.”

This study was conducted with the support from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE), the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT), the International Cooperative R&D Program of POSTECH, and the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of Chonnam National University. The commercialization of the new technology is underway through a technology transfer with EDmicBIo, Inc.