WEDNESDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have grown small blood vessels in a lab using stem cells from fat gathered through liposuction. Such cultured blood vessels might someday play a role in transplant operations, including heart bypass surgery.
In bypass surgery, transplanted blood vessels are used to reroute blood around severely blocked arteries. Current techniques have limitations, however, and these preliminary study results suggest that tissue-engineered blood vessels might help doctors surmount certain hurdles, the researchers said.
Many more steps are involved before heart surgery patients can benefit from this technique, said study author Dr. Matthias Nollert, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, in Norman, Okla.
"First, we will need to make a fully functional vessel. Ours works, but does not yet achieve physiological mechanical properties," he said. "[Then] we will need to show that stem cells obtained from old, sick people can also be used to make a functional vessel and that this works in an animal model."
All in all, "we are still five to 10 years away from seeing this being tested in people," Nollert said. But the researchers hope to have a prototype ready for animal testing by early next year.
Ultimately, millions of patients with cardiovascular disease could benefit, the researchers said.
"We are targeting elderly, obese or diabetic patients in need of coronary artery bypass graft surgery," Nollert said. "For these patients, the gold standard is a vascular graft, but for many there are no suitable vessels available."
The findings are scheduled for presentation Wednesday at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans. Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical jo
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