Mice and monkeys don't develop diseases in the same way that humans do. Nevertheless, after medical researchers have studied human cells in a Petri dish, they have little choice but to move on to study mice and primates.
University of Washington bioengineers have developed the first structure to grow small human blood vessels, creating a 3-D test bed that offers a better way to study disease, test drugs and perhaps someday grow human tissues for transplant.
The findings are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"In clinical research you just draw a blood sample," said first author Ying Zheng, a UW research assistant professor of bioengineering. "But with this, we can really dissect what happens at the interface between the blood and the tissue. We can start to look at how these diseases start to progress and develop efficient therapies."
Zheng first built the structure out of the body's most abundant protein, collagen, while working as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. She created tiny channels and injected this honeycomb with human endothelial cells, which line human blood vessels.
During a period of two weeks, the endothelial cells grew throughout the structure and formed tubes through the mold's rectangular channels, just as they do in the human body.
When brain cells were injected into the surrounding gel, the cells released chemicals that prompted the engineered vessels to sprout new branches, extending the network. A similar system could supply blood to engineered tissue before transplant into the body.
After joining the UW last year, Zheng collaborated with the Puget Sound Blood Center to see how this research platform would work to transport real blood.
The engineered vessels could transport human blood smoothly, even around corners. And when treated with an inflammatory compound the vessels developed clots, similar to
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington