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Stanford doctors advance in bid to turn mice stem cells into blood vessels

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have taken a first step toward growing blood vessels from stem cells that could eventually be transplanted into living organisms.

Starting with embryonic stem cells derived from mice, surgical resident Oscar Abilez, MD, and colleagues have successfully differentiated the stem cells into myocytes, one of the building blocks of blood vessels, after placing them in a life-like growth environment that the research team had created. The scientists hope to be able to eventually grow whole blood vessels that can be transplanted back into mice.

The work is being performed in the laboratory of Christopher Zarins, MD, professor of surgery.

"It's very odd," Abilez said. "We get these stem cells and grow them into contracting myocytes in cultures: You really see them contracting, you really know they're alive, and you start to believe this stem cell stuff has possibilities."

For the study, Abilez received first place in the seventh annual International Society of Endovascular Fellows' research award in laboratory sciences. The findings are published in this month's edition of the Journal of Endovascular Therapy.

The ultimate goal of the research is to bring together two of today's most promising areas of medical investigation: stem cell research and tissue engineering. Tissue engineering, the growth of organs and tissues outside the body for replacement, has achieved successful transplantations of a variety of human tissues including skin and corneas. Most recently, a team of researchers at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., performed the successful transplantation of laboratory-grown bladders into seven children.

Tissue-engineered blood vessels have also seen some success when transplanted into animal models, but still face a variety of limitations, Abilez said, key among them rejection by the immune system. By creating a tissue-engineered blood vessel grown fro
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Source:Stanford University Medical Center


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