One day, such blood vessels could be used in bypass surgery, meaning our muffin tops could help save lives.
That sounds like a joke, but in fact, fat tissue is a good source of stem cells.
And in this experiment, Matthias Nollert at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and his colleagues got liposuction-derived stem cells to turn into the kind of smooth muscle cells found in arteries and veins, which could lead to the creation of "off-the-shelf" replacement vessels for bypass surgeries.
Nollert and his team created the blood vessels by growing their cells along a thin membrane that they then rolled into a tube the size of a small blood vessel. As they grew the muscle cells, they also placed them under stresses that mimic the expand-and-collapse movement of blood vessels in the heart. Nollert told Science Daily:
"Current small-diameter vessel grafts carry an inherent risk of clotting, being rejected or otherwise failing to function normally. Our engineered blood vessels have good mechanical properties and we believe they will contract normally when exposed to hormones. They also appear to prevent the accumulation of blood platelets -- a component in blood that causes arteries to narrow."
These vessels would also be a significant improvement over current methods because:
- Artificial stents, which restore blood flow though blocked arteries, are sometimes rejected by the patient's immune system -- a problem that would not occur If a patient's own stem cells were used.
- Taking blood vessels from other parts of the body has side effects.
Nollert and his team are aiming to have a working prototype to test in animals within six months. Their work is being presented at the American Heart Association's meeting in New Orleans this week.
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