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Scientists make a living blood vessel

Close-up of the structure of the material used to build the “living blood vessel”

Co-author Dr Christopher Breuer of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, US, said he was excited about the research’s potential for children.

“Currently, when children suffer from an abnormal vessel, surgeons have no choice but to use synthetic vessels which work well for a short time, but inevitably children need additional surgeries as they grow older. This new technology provides the exciting foundation for engineered blood vessels that will continue to grow and develop over time.

Lead author and bio-engineer Dr Ziyu Wang of the Charles Perkins Center at the University of Sydney pioneered the technology that was developed as part of his PhD. It built on earlier work by Dr Suzanne Mithieux, also at the Charles Perkins Centre.

Natural blood vessel walls include a series of concentric rings of elastin (a protein that gives vessels elasticity and the ability to stretch) – like nesting dolls. This makes the rings elastic, allowing blood vessels to expand and contract with blood flow.

This new technology means that, for the first time, these large concentric rings of elastin can grow naturally within the walls of implanted tubes.

Unlike current manufacturing processes for synthetic materials used in surgery, which can be long, complex and expensive, this new manufacturing process is fast and well defined.

“These synthetic vessels are elegant because they are made from just two natural materials that are well tolerated by the body,” Dr. Wang said.

“Tropoelastin (the natural building block of elastin) is encased in an elastic sheath that gradually dissipates and promotes the formation of highly organized natural mimics of functional blood vessels.”

The fabricated tube can also be safely stored in a sterile plastic bag until transplant.

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