Biofabricating the vascular tree in engineered bone tissue

Leanne de Silva*, Paulina N. Bernal, A. J.W. Rosenberg, Jos Malda, Riccardo Levato, Debby Gawlitta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


The development of tissue engineering strategies for treatment of large bone defects has become increasingly relevant, given the growing demand for bone substitutes. Native bone is composed of a dense vascular network necessary for the regulation of bone development, regeneration and homeostasis. A major obstacle in fabricating living, clinically relevant-sized bone mimics (1-10 cm3) is the limited supply of nutrients, including oxygen to the core of the construct. Therefore, strategies to support vascularization are pivotal for the development of tissue engineered bone constructs. Creating a functional bone construct integrated with a vascular network, capable of delivering the necessary nutrients for optimal tissue development is imperative for translation into the clinics. The vascular system is composed of a complex network that runs throughout the body in a tree-like hierarchical branching fashion. A significant challenge for tissue engineering approaches lies in mimicking the intricate, multi-scale structures consisting of larger vessels (macro-vessels) which interconnect with multiple sprouting vessels (microvessels) in a closed network. The advent of biofabrication has enabled complex, out of plane channels to be generated and has laid the groundwork for the creation of multi-scale vasculature in recent years. This review highlights the key state-of-the-art achievements for the development of vascular networks of varying scales in the field of biofabrication with a particular focus for its application in developing a functional tissue engineered bone construct. Statement of significance: There is a growing need for bone substitutes to overcome the limited supply of patient-derived bone. Bone tissue engineering aims to overcome this by combining stem cells with scaffolds to restore missing bone. The current bottleneck in upscaling is the lack of an integrated vascular network, required for the delivery of nutrients to cells. 3D bioprinting techniques has enabled the creation of complex hollow structures of varying dimensions that resemble native blood vessels. The convergence of multiple materials, cell types and fabrication approaches, opens the possibility of developing clinically-relevant sized vascularized bone constructs. This review provides an up-to-date insight of the technologies currently available for the generation of complex vascular networks, with a focus on their application in bone tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-268
Number of pages19
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2023


  • Biofabrication
  • Bone tissue engineering
  • Tissue engineering
  • Vascularization


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