Blood vessels developed in a laboratory could be used to replace diseased or damaged veselss. For example, in bypass surgery instead of harvesting a vessel from a patient's body, the vessel could be grown in a laboratory from the patient's own cells.
In addition, laboratory-grown vessels could be used with dialysis patients. In most dialysis treatment cases, a fistula is created by surgically connecting an artery and vein in a patient's arm. However, creating a fistula is difficult in patients with diseased vessels.
While synthetic vessels are an option, they are prone to infection and need to be replaced often. Laboratory-grown vessels would resolve that problem.
Research Approach and Goals
The scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are developing engineered blood vessels using a tubular scaffold, the building block of the new vessel. A patient's own cells would be grown on the scaffold. The process starts with collecting a type of stem cell from a sample of a patient's blood. From these stem cells, endothelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels and prevent clots) are grown in the laboratory. Once there are enough cells, the cells are placed on the scaffold and then engineered vessel is placed in a bioreactor system to acclimate it to the conditions of the body.
Research Highlights and Innovation
The research being conducted at the institute can significantly change the success rate for replacing blood vessels that are diseased or damaged, specifically benefiting dialysis patients.