Bypassing Other Heart-Surgery Breakthroughs

Scientist's team up to create ready-made blood vessels to use in heart bypass, dialysis patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists have come together to create a process to make ready-made, easily stored blood vessels to be used in patients undergoing heart surgery or kidney dialysis.

The researchers spent more than five years engineering these blood vessels by using donor tissue cultured on biodegradable, tube-shaped scaffolds. The vessels are resistant to infection and clotting, and are incapable of being rejected by patients. The vessels can be refrigerated in saline solution for lengthy periods of time.

Scientists from Duke, Yale and East Carolina universities joined researchers from a private company, Humacyte, Inc., to develop the products for vascular disease and soft-tissue repair.

Study author Shannon Dahl, co-founder and director of scientific operations at Humacyte, said the technology has the potential to help more than half a million patients each year.

Patients' own cells can help grow blood vessels, but the process can take up to nine months, making it unfeasible for immediate heart bypass operations. Surgeons are also able to graft veins from other areas of the body, particularly the legs, but these new, ready-made vessels can help in situations where those veins are unsuitable.

The team of scientists produced 37 vascular grafts using smooth muscle cells of 19 human donors before using detergent to strip the muscle cells away to ensure an unfavorable immune response didn't occur in transplant recipients. The vessels were then implanted in animals (baboons and dogs) during coronary artery and carotid artery bypass surgeries. The animals experienced little complications, and after several months the vessels became very similar to the animals' own arteries.

Heart bypass surgery is performed about 400,000 times each year in the United States, and about 320,000 American kidney failure patients undergo dialysis regularly to mechanically filter blood and remove waste products.

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Review Date: 
February 4, 2011
Last Updated:
February 6, 2011