In the future, the same techniques could be used for engineered heart valves and cardiac tissue, Mironov believes. "But whether tissue engineering products are cost-effective is another question," he said.
Dr. Ajay Singh, clinical chief of the renal division and director of dialysis at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, noted that many shunts fail in dialysis patients and this new method, if it proves itself, could aid many patients.
"The ability to use a blood vessel grown in the laboratory is really quite remarkable," Singh said. "This could become a very important alternative to what is done presently."
One other expert wasn't so sure, however.
"This is very preliminary," said Dr. Jonathan Bromberg, a professor of surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and director of the Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
"It looks like a reasonable approach, it looks like a promising approach, but it needs a tremendous amount of more study," he said. "It's very far from being widely applicable and it is also not clear that this is any better than what we already have with our current technology."
For more on kidney disease and dialysis, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
SOURCES: Todd N. McAllister, Ph.D., Cytograft Tissue Engineering, Novato, Calif.; Ajay Singh, M.D., clinical chief, renal division, director, dialysis, Brigham and Women's Hospital, associate
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