Rapid prototyping of biomimetic vascular phantoms for hyperspectral reflectance imaging

J Biomed Opt. 2015;20(12):121312. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.20.12.121312.


The emerging technique of rapid prototyping with three-dimensional (3-D) printers provides a simple yet revolutionary method for fabricating objects with arbitrary geometry. The use of 3-D printing for generating morphologically biomimetic tissue phantoms based on medical images represents a potentially major advance over existing phantom approaches. Toward the goal of image-defined phantoms, we converted a segmented fundus image of the human retina into a matrix format and edited it to achieve a geometry suitable for printing. Phantoms with vessel-simulating channels were then printed using a photoreactive resin providing biologically relevant turbidity, as determined by spectrophotometry. The morphology of printed vessels was validated by x-ray microcomputed tomography. Channels were filled with hemoglobin (Hb) solutions undergoing desaturation, and phantoms were imaged with a near-infrared hyperspectral reflectance imaging system. Additionally, a phantom was printed incorporating two disjoint vascular networks at different depths, each filled with Hb solutions at different saturation levels. Light propagation effects noted during these measurements—including the influence of vessel density and depth on Hb concentration and saturation estimates, and the effect of wavelength on vessel visualization depth—were evaluated. Overall, our findings indicated that 3-D-printed biomimetic phantoms hold significant potential as realistic and practical tools for elucidating light–tissue interactions and characterizing biophotonic system performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Biomimetics*
  • Bioprinting
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Optics and Photonics
  • Oximetry
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • X-Ray Microtomography
  • X-Rays


  • Hemoglobins