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Lab-grown blood vessels developed to aid dialysis

The innovation comes from a partnership between the biotechnology company Humacyte Inc., Duke University and Yale University and output means that scientists are closer to using bioengineered blood vessels. Current dialysis procedures, using replace synthetic polymers and donor tissues, carry a risk to the patient in terms of inflammation and immune system rejection.


Dialysis (alternatively- renal replacement therapy) refers to the process of removing excess water, solutes, and toxins from the blood in people whose kidneys can no longer perform these functions naturally. Dialysis works on the principles of the diffusion of solutes and ultrafiltration of fluid across a semi-permeable membrane.

To facilitate the dialysis process an extra blood vessel (synthetic or donated) is implanted into the patient’s arm, which carries risks. The newly developed process aims to overcome reactions from the human body by using a patient’s own cells to create that extra blood vessel.

To test out the biotechnology, the researchers constructed a biodegradable polymer tube and layered this with vascular cells from a deceased donor. Over a period of two months, the human cells multiplied and developed a new tube. At the same time the the polymer scaffolding broke down, leaving an intact vessel. This was then tested out by being implanted into the arm of a patient (and then repeated across sixty volunteers). The newly engineered blood vessels did not trigger any significant immune reactions in any of the patients.

As to what this means in practice, Laura Niklason, a biomedical engineer at Yale University tells Science News: “Think of this as an apartment building without any tenants. It’s an empty space for [the patient’s] cells to come in and occupy once the protein tube is implanted.”

The research has been reported to the journal Science Translational Medicine, with the peer reviewed paper titled “Bioengineered human acellular vessels recellularize and evolve into living blood vessels after human implantation.”

With the proof-of-concept established, the new method is now heading towards a clinical trial, according to Engadget.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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