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Laboratory-Grown Blood Vessels Offer Hope For Heart Disease Treatment

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 30, 2012


British scientists have successfully ‘grown’ the three main types of cells that make up the walls of a blood vessel – a breakthrough that could revolutionise treatment for conditions such as heart disease and strokes.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, funded by the Wellcome Trust, successfully created blood vessels in the laboratory following a four-year study using patients’ own skin cells to manufacture different types of vascular smooth muscle cells.

Scientists began by studying pluripotent stem cells. These are early biological cells that can transform into other cell types and renew themselves to produce more stem cells.

They discovered methods of turning the stem cells into various types of vascular smooth muscle cells, which help form blood vessels after being injected into mice.

The study, published in the Nature Biotechnology, found that their technique was 90% effective during tests and would be suitable for producing blood vessels on a wider scale. This means the so-called ‘test tube’ treatment could be used for kidney dialysis and injury repair.

Researchers also claim they could potentially create blood vessels for heart surgeons to use during risky heart bypass surgery.

They are hopeful that the findings could pave the way for an effective treatment for life-threatening diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

“This research represents an important step towards being able to generate the right kind of smooth muscle cells to help construct these new blood vessels,” says Dr Sanjay Sinha, from the study, as reported by the Telegraph.

“We are very excited about its potential. They could be used to build an artificial artery in a test tube or the stem cells could be injected straight into the heart and they could form within it.”

Heart specialists and charities are also feeling hopeful from these recent study results.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, told The Huffington Post: “This is a significant technological advance as they have managed to grow more types of cells and there is the potential to scale it up.

“Growing blood vessels would mean they could be used off-the-shelf and put into patients who need bypasses in the leg and the heart which is currently done using their own veins or arteries, and not all patients have suitable vessels.”

This isn’t the first time blood vessels have been grown on a lab, as American scientists did it for the first time in June 2011. However, the Cambridge researchers are the first to grow multiple blood vessels that could have more medical uses.

It is estimated that in Britain about one in three deaths are caused by a heart attack and more than 28,000 people in the UK undergo heart bypass surgery.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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