Functional, architected vascular grafts via biodesign and 3D printing

Study level


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Mark Allenby
Postdoctoral Research Fellow (AQF)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Mia Woodruff
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Vascular surgery is Australia’s second-most expensive surgical program, primarily due to an aging population with increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, representing 29% of all deaths in 2017. Globally, cardiovascular disease remains the primary cause of morbidity and mortality. This high clinical burden has led to a $10B global market value for vascular medical devices.

The high cost of cardiovascular treatments are, in part, due to the high failure rate of implanted vascular grafts (50% failure rate at 10 years post-surgery). While synthetic vascular grafts aim to repair damaged vessels and avoid donor limitations, their inability to mimic the biomechanical features of native vessels disrupts blood flow and causes future functional issues which require procedures to be redone. Indeed, vascular graft surgery is associated with higher levels of morbidity and mortality when compared to endovascular treatments.

Melt electrowriting (MEW) is an emerging manufacturing technique able to 3D print micron-scale geometries, similar to the natural dimensions of proteins and cells that structure vascular remodeling. Scaffolds generated via MEW are able to control tissue morphology and function during growth, but have been unable to capture the patterned multi-layered architecture of vascular tissue which imparts specific stiffness, flexibility and selective permeability.

This project will combine medical image datasets with mechanical and histological analyses to design bespoke vascular grafts using multi-modal 3D printing (MEW, FDM, bioprinting). These grafts will be designed to encourage cells to pattern into tissue morphologically and functionally similar to native vessels. The performance of these grafts will be examined in vitro (mechanical, permeability, vasculogenesis) toward in vivo trials.

Research activities

This project will develop your skills in experimental and computational technologies. These skills are useful in a variety of manufacturing and biomedical industries.

These tasks will include:

  • literature review of current pathology, surgical treatment and research approaches
  • histological and mechanical analysis of native vasculature
  • design/analysis of 3D printed scaffolding to replicate physiological vessels (AutoCAD, MEW)
  • in vitro analysis and scaffold-control of cell growth and vascular patterning (microscopy)
  • development of physiological vascular testing rigs (perfusion bioreactors, animal models)

You will be working with a talented team across the Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology (BTM) laboratory and the greater Herston Biofabrication Institute (HBI).

This team includes physicists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists and the clinicians who are operating on the patients. You will be able to attend surgeries and consultations and be expected to attend lab group meetings once per week alongside full time research.


This project is supported by the BTM laboratory with extensive experience in medical imaging, computational design and modelling, multi-material additive manufacturing (3D printing), tissue culture and histology. You will also have direct access to HBI clinician mentorship.

This project aims to:

  • correlate histology (tissue structure) with functional and dysfunctional mechanical properties
  • design 3D printed scaffolds which mimics acellular vessel matrix structure at varying detail
  • optimise scaffold mechanical or functional properties to acellular vessel matrix
  • correlate vessel scaffold detail with spatiotemporal tissue growth and morphology in vitro
  • design a physiological in vitro or in vivo evaluation system in comparison with fresh vessel biopsy.

Skills and experience

You will be ideal for the project if you have completed a relevant degree in an engineering or life sciences discipline.

Relevant experience (CAD, 3D printing, histology, or cell culture) is useful, but not required.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact Dr Mark Allenby for more information.