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The Fractals In Us


Fractal geometry manifests ubiquitously in nature, spanning from the branching patterns of trees, snowflakes, and flower petals to the intricate vascular and pulmonary networks within the human body. This piece focuses on the manifestation of fractals within our vascular systems.


Vasculogenesis is the process by which blood vessels are formed de novo, or from scratch. Meanwhile, angiogenesis is when new blood vessels form from pre-existing vasculature. In my tissue engineering class (BME 474), we grew microvasculature in 3D-engineered tissue constructs. To do this, we cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLFs), encapsulated them in fibrin gels, fixed the co-cultures, and fluorescently stained them for visualization. The cultures were imaged using confocal fluorescence microscopy. The blue regions indicate DAPI (to visualize nuclei), green for phalloidin (to see actin filaments) and red is UEA (to show sugar residues on endothelial cells).


The two-dimensional painted surface is referenced from an image that my lab team and I took. The three-dimensional blood vessels extending from the canvas represent angiogenesis occurring. This was generated with a recursive sequence in Python through Rhino’s Grasshopper extension and 3D-printed in black resin. The whole piece was painted in acrylic and glow-in-the-dark paint.

Materials: acrylic, glow in the dark paint, and resin on canvas

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