Scientific researchers at Cambridge University have successfully managed to grow, in laboratory conditions, the three different types of cells that make up the walls of human veins and arteries; a discovery that could lead to the production of artificial blood vessels which could be used to treat dozens of medical conditions.
The group has been working for four years on the project, using skin cells donated by volunteers to attempt to recreate the cells that are needed for the construction of arteries and veins. Publishing their findings in Nature Biotechnology, the team said they were confident that their research could have medial and commercial applications and that the process was already over 90% effective in laboratory tests.
Doctors have already welcomed the breakthrough, which could be used to treat patients who have suffered strokes or heart attacks, creating new veins and arteries to replace or bypass the ones which have become damaged or blocked. Artificial blood vessels could also be used in heart bypass operations, rather than having to be taken from the patient’s own thigh, or to treat those who need kidney dialysis more effectively.
Team leader Dr Sanjay Sinha told a British newspaper that the researchers were all very excited about the possibilities that their findings could be used to save lives and that the possibility that blood vessel cells grown in a laboratory could one day be injected into diseased hearts or kidneys to encourage the development of healthy veins and arteries.
Other researchers have come close to developing artificial blood vessels in the past, but previous experiments has all required the use of plasma from animal cells. This lead to its own problems including toxicity and rejection when the cells were introduced into the host.
Nearly 30,000 coronary bypasses are performed each year, while 12% of the population are thought to have been diagnosed with some kind of circulatory disorder, and these are all people who could benefit from theCambridgeUniversityfindings.