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Heart Blood Vessels Grown in the Lab
Date:7/19/2008

Could offer a future alternative to bypass surgery, researchers say

FRIDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they have grown in mice the kind of functioning heart blood vessels that cardiac surgeons create with bypass operations.

One ultimate goal is to replace some heart surgery with injections of laboratory-grown cells that would establish themselves in the body, providing a system of blood vessels for damaged hearts that need more oxygen, said Juan M. Melero-Martin, a co-author of a paper in the July 18 issue of the journal Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"We are proving the concept in mice who are compromised so that they don't reject human cells," said Melero-Martin, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston. "For clinical use, the way we envision it, if a patient has need to vascularize ischemic tissue, we can get cells from the patient ahead of time, grow them and inject them back into the patient."

Ischemic tissue is starved of blood because of blocked arteries or other damage, and revascularization restores the vessels through which blood can flow to that tissue.

The research team is not using stem cells, which are controversial, because they are obtained from human embryos. Instead, they are using what are called progenitor cells, easily obtained from blood or bone marrow, which can grow to become various sorts of adult cells. The progenitor cells used in the study grew into full-fledged blood vessel systems in the laboratory mice.

The researchers combined two kinds of progenitor cells, one for those that line the surface of blood vessels, the other for cells that surround the lining and provide stability. They found that a mix of the two kinds of progenitor cells derived from adult blood and bone marrow or umbilical cord and adult bone marrow gave the best growth of blood vessels.

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