London: Off-the-shelf blood vessels could soon be a reality, as scientists have come up with a way to grow new human veins in the laboratory.
The lab-made blood vessels, which can be stored for up to
a year and safely transplanted into any patient, could
revolutionise heart surgery, said the researchers behind the
They also claimed the blood vessels could soon replace
artificial versions -- which easily clog and cause infection
-- in a number of operations, including thousands of heart
bypasses a year, a newspaper reported.
Scientists have already developed a technique to engineer
blood vessels from a patient`s own cells, but this process
takes over nine months and patients usually cannot wait that
long for surgery.
The new technique, developed by a team at the East
Carolina University in the US, involved making the vessels in
advance by using random donor cells from human tissue to grow
collagen on a biodegradable "scaffold" tube or mould made from
When the scaffold dissolves away, fully formed blood
vessels are left behind. These are then "washed" of the
original human cells so that they were completely benign and
unlikely to cause any rejection in the body of a recipient,
the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational
These vessels have already been tested on baboons and
were found to work by fully restoring blood flow. There were
no evidence of clogging or thickening when the grafts were
removed after six months -- an indication that they would be
suitable for long term transplantation.
Thousands of people worldwide are diagnosed with heart or
circulatory disorders and they could potentially benefit from
this new technology each year, the researchers said.
"This new type of bioengineered vein allows them to be
easily stored in hospitals so they are readily available to
surgeons at the time of need," said study co-author Dr Alan
"Currently, grafting using the patient`s own veins
remains the gold standard. But, harvesting a vein from the
patient`s leg can lead to complications, and for patients who
don`t have suitable veins, the bioengineered veins could serve
as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass."
Bypass surgery circumvents blocked arteries in the heart
and body and, often using a blood vessel from another part of
the patient`s body usually the leg.
In a majority of patients, there is not a suitable blood
vessel and a synthetic one is used instead. But these can
become clogged easily and cause serious infections.
The new "bioengineered" veins appear to avoid these
complications. The new veins could also be used to help kidney
dialysis patients whose own blood vessels become damaged by
the treatment, the researchers said.
Shannon Dahl, lead author of the study, however, said
there is still considerable research to be done before a
product is available for widespread use.