A New Method Of Engineering Blood Vessels

Vessels grown in the laboratory from donor skin cells could be used to repair heart defects  

In a new study published in Nature Communications researchers have succeeded in implanting vessel scaffolds produced from donor sheep skin cells into 3 lambs. This has potential implications for children born with congenital heart defects and patients requiring artery repair. 

"This might be the first time we have an 'off-the-shelf' material that doctors can implant in a patient, and it can grow in the body"

How was it done?

Taking skin cells from sheep, researchers grew blood vessels for a period of 5 weeks. Following successful growth detergents were applied to strip the vessels of cells - leaving a scaffold. These structures were then used to patch up the pulmonary artery in 3 different lambs. 

These vessels scaffolds soon integrated into the host and were repopulated by the lambs' own cells. This prevented rejection and resulted in a functional new artery patch, which allowed all 3 lambs to successfully develop into adulthood. 

"This is the perfect marriage between tissue engineering and regenerative medicine where tissue is grown in the lab and then... the natural processes of the recipient's body makes it a living tissue again" 

The tissue-engineered graft ready for implantation.  Credit: University of Minnesota

 A fast method of tissue engineering 

While this type of technique isn't applicable for all tissue, it has hopeful implications for patients with heart defects and injury. By growing vessels from young donor cells in a laboratory the process can be accelerated, while also avoiding immune complications following total removal of all donor cells. 

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