Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

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You won’t need to for much longer. Soon they are going to create artery “banks” available for use in cardiovascular surgery, which will bypass the need to harvest vessels from the patient. This could transform the treatment of many common heart and vascular diseases. However, this will take a while to finally be created. Both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research will address these obstacles in a $8 million, five year project paid for by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Project leader James Thomson, says patients demanding bypass surgeries would benefit from a better source for arteries. He is a stem cell research pioneer and Director of Regenerative Biology at Morgridge. However, right now replacement tissue is taken from another part of the patient’s body, and many times suitable tissue can’t be found. In addition, current synthetic alternatives also fail at a high rate. This is extremely important because one of the leading causes of death worldwide is diseases of blood vessels.

“Tissue engineering for blood vessels is a pretty mature field,” says Thomson. “But there are still two major problems: One is the time it takes to make the vessels, and the other is the source of the cells to grow them.”
If you take induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells from a patient, and then grow the relevant cells and assemble them into an artery, it would overcome the problem of transplant rejection, Thomson says. The problem with this is it would be too costly and take too long that it would not be clinically useful to a patient.

The promising alternative is to design tissue with cells banked from a unique population of people who are genetically compatible donors. As well, it has been estimated that approximately 100 different cell lines from this valuable population would be enough to cover most the U.S. population.
“This has implications beyond making vessels for transplantation.

Transplantation; it’s sort of the stepping stone to more advanced tissue engineering,” he says. “Any form of cellular transplant therapy is going to need a blood supply, and we need to learn how to engineer that blood supply to work with more complex tissues.”

The development of this technology is fast approaching and the effects of this on medical advances are endless. This could change the way people live for years to come.

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