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Researchers Craft Blood Vessels for Heart, Kidney Patients
Date:2/2/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have devised a process to create ready-made, easily stored blood vessels that may potentially be used for patients undergoing heart surgery or kidney dialysis.

Using donor tissue cultured on biodegradable tube-shaped frames called scaffolds, researchers spent more than five years engineering the "off-the-shelf" blood vessels, which cannot be rejected by patients' immune systems and are resistant to infection or clotting. The bioengineered vessels can be refrigerated long-term in a saline solution.

The study was conducted in baboons and dogs by scientists from Duke, East Carolina and Yale universities, along with Humacyte Inc., a private company based in Durham, N.C. that develops products for vascular disease and soft-tissue repair.

"We're very encouraged by the results," said study author Shannon Dahl, who is co-founder and director of scientific operations at Humacyte. "This type of technology has the potential to help more than 500,000 patients each year. The next step is to lay the groundwork . . . that can bring this to the clinic."

While engineered blood vessels can be grown using patients' own cells, the process can take nine months or longer, making it unfeasible for those needing more immediate heart bypass surgery, which is performed in the United States about 400,000 times each year. Doctors can also graft veins from other body areas, particularly the legs, but the ready-made vessels can help those whose veins are unsuitable, Dahl said.

Additionally, the bioengineered veins can be made in sizes large enough to use in kidney dialysis patients, half of whom lack the healthy vessels needed for bloodstream access to dialysis machines and receive grafts made of infection- and obstruction-prone synthetic material, according to the study, reported in the Feb. 2 issue of Science Translational Medicin
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