Scientists grow blood vessels for human surgery

February 2, 2011
This is a 6 mm-diameter decellularized human bioengineered vein before implant. Credit: Image courtesy of Science/AAAS

Scientists can grow blood vessels in a lab for use in coronary bypass or dialysis, a promising alternative to harvesting from the patient, said a study published on Wednesday.

The process involves taking smooth muscle cells from a human cadaver and grafting them onto tubes made of the material used in making dissolvable stitches, called polyglycolic acid.

Within eight to 10 weeks, the tubes degrade and a "fully formed vascular graft" remains, said the research by scientists from Duke University, East Carolina University and Yale University.

The veins have been tested in baboons and dogs. They were not rejected by the animals' bodies and functioned well for six months, said the study, published in the journal .

In this newly published research by scientists at Humacyte Inc., Duke, East Carolina and Yale universities, bioengineered veins are generated by culturing human cells in a bioreactor to form a robust tissue. Cells are removed from the tissue, and the bioengineered veins can be stored for up to 12 months in refrigeration until time of patient need. These bioengineered veins may be developed in large diameter for use in vascular access in kidney dialysis or small diameter for use in bypass surgery. Bioengineered veins have demonstrated excellent blood flow and resistance to clotting. Credit: Video courtesy of Science/AAAS

The bio-engineered vessels could also be stored in saline solution for up to a year, suggesting that one day surgeons could pluck a vein "off the shelf" for use in a sick patient, the study said.

"These can be made ahead of time and then are ready to go whenever they are needed," the paper said.

Clinical trials in humans are expected to begin soon, according to a spokeswoman from Humacyte, a company based in North Carolina that also contributed to the study and funded the research.

In this research, bioengineered veins are generated by culturing human cells in a bioreactor and removing cells after vein growth. Bioengineered veins may be developed in large diameter for use in vascular access in kidney dialysis or in small diameter for use in bypass surgery and stored for up to 12 months until time of patient need. Credit: Image Courtesy of Science/AAAS
"Currently, grafting using the patient's own veins remains the gold standard," said co-author Alan Kypson of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

"But, harvesting a vein from the patient's leg can lead to complications, and for patients who don't have suitable veins, the bio-engineered veins could serve as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass."

The engineered vessels also have "decreased potential for infection, obstruction or clotting," the study noted.

Shannon Dahl, senior director of Scientific Operations at Humacyte, said veins can be made in a variety of sizes for use in different operations.

"We can make the bio-engineered veins in large and small diameter which means they can be used for procedures ranging from hemodialysis for patients with kidney failure and for coronary by-pass," she said.

The National Kidney Foundation says that 320,000 patients require dialysis, and "more than half of dialysis patients lack the healthy necessary and must undergo an arteriovenous graft (AV graft) placement" for the procedure.

Around 400,000 procedures are performed annually in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

Explore further: Scientists develop 'cyborg engineering' for coronary bypass grafting

Related Stories

Scientists develop 'cyborg engineering' for coronary bypass grafting

June 3, 2008
A team of London scientists have taken a major step in making the use of artificial veins and arteries in coronary bypass grafts a reality. In a study published in the June 2008 print issue of The FASEB Journal, researchers ...

Stem cells from surgery leftovers could repair damaged hearts

April 26, 2010
Scientists have for the first time succeeded in extracting vital stem cells from sections of vein removed for heart bypass surgery. Researchers funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found that these stem cells can ...

Knowledge unlocks key to healthier options for dialysis patients

April 23, 2009
Kidney disease patients who are educated about dialysis are more likely to undergo a standard but under-utilized dialysis-related procedure than less knowledgeable patients, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue ...

Clinical Trial Examines Gene Therapy for Dialysis Patients

May 19, 2010
( -- A new gene therapy may help sustain dialysis access in patients, eliminating the need for multiple interventions and surgeries and improving their quality of life.

Natural aorta grafts have few side effects for infection-prone patients

September 10, 2007
A vascular surgery technique pioneered at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in which veins are removed from the thigh to repair the aorta does not create blood-flow problems and painful side effects in a majority of patients, ...

Tissue-engineered grafts composed of adult stem cells could 1 day replace synthetic vascular bypass grafts

April 8, 2010
Using adult stem cells, researchers have created functional blood vessels that could one day replace synthetic grafts often required in various vascular bypass surgeries, according to research presented at the American Heart ...

Recommended for you

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Discovery of inner ear function may improve diagnosis of hearing impairment

October 15, 2018
Results from a research study published in Nature Communications show how the inner ear processes speech, something that has until now been unknown. The authors of the report include researchers from Linköping University, ...

Widespread errors in 'proofreading' cause inherited blindness

October 12, 2018
Mistakes in "proofreading" the genetic code of retinal cells is the cause of a form of inherited blindness, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in splicing factors.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 02, 2011
They were not rejected by the animals' bodies and functioned well for six months

Then what? Don't get me wrong, this is a great advancement. However, they kind of left us hanging with that sentence.
not rated yet Feb 02, 2011
"functioned well for six months." Does this mean they need to be replaced after six months. Does it mean that the study was published only after six months and they don't know what happens after that?
5 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2011
I'm guessing that they are still monitoring these animals and up to this point(6 months) they are still going strong.
not rated yet Feb 03, 2011
I'm guessing that they are still monitoring these animals and up to this point(6 months) they are still going strong.

Yes, that's likely it or the study was only funded for that amount of time. That's often the case with studies. If the results are positive, then other, broader studies or trials will be started.

But yes, that kind of wording often leads to confusion when reported in pop media.
not rated yet Feb 09, 2011
Do you have to use human cadavers what about using pigs and/or cows there would be plenty of leftover "parts" to reuse. We could raise some pigs with some genetic likeness to humans we could use.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.