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3D-(bio)printed possibility: a Women’s Heart

Bridging nature and technology will lead to new solutions, such as the quote on the front of this webpage says. Technology is part of our being and not something alienating. This short article shows that we should continue to seek for new possibilities and try to connect with nature again.

Cardiovascular disease is one field in medicine which requires more gender sensitive care and research. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women in the Western world [1][4]. Particularly after the age of 65, many women are hospitalized due to complaints of the heart and vessels [4]. In the 1970s, guidelines were first established with the purpose to prevent cardiovascular diseases. We now know that these guidelines were based on evidence of clinical research in which only men were included. Nowadays, there is an increase of evidence for sex and gender differences in the development of cardiovascular diseases, due to the inclusion of women in research [4]. But which new evidence is interesting for 3D-(bio)printing purposes?

Researchers found out that stenosis of larger coronary arteries occurs more frequently in men [2]. Women often have problems in the smallest vessels in the heart, i.e. tend to suffer from Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction (CMD). At first sight, this seems not so alarming, but for the supply of oxygen to the heart these small vessels are very important. If they do not work properly, people may suffer from chest pain, chest tightness or severe fatigue. With current techniques such as cardiac catheterization, these small vessels are not clearly visible [2]. It becomes clear that the further development of such technique is of great importance. Therefore, we have to look into new possibilities such as 3D-(bio)printing which already been shown to have some very promising potential uses in medicine. For example, researchers recently discovered the printing of blood vessels, bones and vascular networks with human cells, utilizing so-called 3D-bioprinting [3]. 3D-bioprinting may help to visualize small vessels in the heart and to get a better understanding of the progression of CMD. This can be a right step in the direction of solving gender and sex issues in cardiovascular diseases such as CMD.

3D-(bio)printing can help us to get a better understanding on how nature works and how it offers solutions to our problems. Nature has still a lot of undiscovered answers left to be discovered. And if we combine this with technology even a greater impact can be realised.

Written by Manon van Daal (intern 2017-2018).

[1] Appelman, Y. & M. Ten Haaf (2016). Ischemisch coronairlijden: vooral bij vrouwen een non-obstructief probleem? Retrieved from (12-12-2017): Article [2]Hartstichting (n.d.). Vrouwen en hart- en vaatziekten. Retrieved from (12-12-2017): Article [3]Schubert C., M.C van Langveld & L.A. Donoso (2013). Innovations in 3D printing: a 3D overview from optics to organs. Br J Ophthalmol 0:1–3.

[4]Wittekoek, J. (2013) Het vrouwenhart; begeerd maar miskent. Hart- en vaatziekten bij vrouwen. Retrieved from (12-12-2017): Article

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