He described the study as just the first step on a long road that could eventually lead to the use of engineered grafts in humans. Next will be a test of the grafts in larger animals, probably dogs. The series of experiments designed to lead to first human trials will take at least three years, McIlhenny said.
When and if they occur, the initial human trials would not use the engineered grafts for bypass procedures in the heart, he said. Instead, they might be tested in bypass procedures for peripheral arterial disease, which is blockage of arteries in the legs. They might also be tried as replacements for the synthetic vessels now used as connections to artificial kidneys for people who undergo dialysis.
Dr. Robert A. Hegele, co-chairman of the San Francisco conference and a professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, said that better grafts for bypass surgery and other uses are highly desirable because of the high failure rate of those now used when natural blood vessels are not available. The failure rate ranges from 20 to 60 percent in a single year, he said.
Several efforts are underway to make better graft vessels through bioengineering, Hegele said. An intriguing aspect of the work at Thomas Jefferson, he said, is that it starts with easily obtainable fat cells, whereas others are relying on less available sources of cells, such as bone marrow.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on bypass surgery.
SOURCES: Stephen E. McIlhenny, Ph.D., researcher, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphi
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