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Bioengineered Skin Grafts Control Blood Pressure in Mice
Date:1/16/2010

Approach might lead to treatments for other conditions, such as anemia, researchers say

FRIDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Bioengineered skin cells can produce molecules that control blood pressure in mice, and the same technology is potentially usable against a number of medical conditions, researchers report.

"Our main interest is showing the therapeutic utility of this approach," said Dr. Jonathan Vogel, a senior investigator in the dermatology branch of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and lead author of the report published online in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Blood pressure control was the target in the mouse experiment because "some of our collaborators on the paper have an interest in hypertension," Vogel said. The study was done in collaboration with researchers at the University of Giessen and Marburg in Germany.

The bioengineered skin cells, which were altered by using a retrovirus to insert a gene into them, were applied as grafts. "Skin grafts are relatively easy to construct," Vogel said. "The desired gene can be placed in the upper part of the skin and also in the fibroblasts, which provide the supportive structure of the skin."

Tests showed that the skin patches lowered the blood pressure of mice fed a normal diet and prevented high blood pressure in mice fed a diet high in salt.

"We used a retrovirus with RNA that makes two proteins," Vogel said. "One of the proteins is a peptide that controls and lowers blood pressure. The other can be used as a marker."

The active molecule produced by the bioengineered cells was atrial natriuretic peptide, a hormone that lowers blood pressure.

The successful trial is just a first step in what promises to be a long road to the use of skin grafts in medicine, Vogel said.

"It is one thing to do it in a mouse," he said. "The question is whether it can be scaled
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