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Tigra Scientifica: Artificial blood vessels growing in lambs-shear genius

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Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are common types of birth defects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million children in the U.S. alone are living with CHDs.
These defects disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. Although these defects range in severity, treatment often requires multiple surgeries and lifelong use of medication.
Fortunately, thanks to researchers at the University of Minnesota, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Science Daily reports that a study led by Robert Tranquillo and his colleagues may lead to a potential remedy for the problem — artificial blood vessels.
Using a gelatin-like material and skin cells from sheep, Robert Tranquillo and his team were able to engineer a blood vessel.
They manufactured vessel-like tubes and then pumped in nutrients to encourage cell growth over a five-week period.
The researchers used special detergents to wash away all of the lamb cells in order to prevent an immune response and then implanted the tubes into five-week-old lambs to replace their pulmonary artery. The recipient lambs’ own cells colonized the tubes, allowing the implants to grow as the recipients grew.
Tranquillo calls his method, “The perfect marriage between tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.” The major breakthrough of the study was that recipients’ own cells repopulated the implant. This is the key to unlocking the benefits of an artificial blood vessel made available for human implantation in the future.
Tranquillo said that his next step will be seeking approval from the FDA for human clinical trials. If approved for use in humans, some children born with CHDs may no longer need multiple surgeries. Instead, CHDs could be corrected with a single procedure using this artificial blood vessel technique.

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