Researchers from both Yale and MIT recently used a mixture of endothelial cells, neural stem cells and a hydrogel scaffold to grow artificial capillary beds both in vitro and in vivo…
The scientists constructed a gelatinous scaffold from a hydrogel-a water-based jelly-that was riddled with tiny channels. Then they sprinkled the sponge-like scaffold with the vessel-building endothelial cells and neural stem cells. As they had in a dish, the endothelial cells formed tubes. But this time the tubes followed the scaffold’s channels, forming a network of tiny blood vessels.
When the scientists implanted these gelatinous scaffolds into little pockets just under the skin of lab mice, and then removed them as long as six weeks later, they found that not only had the new vessels survived, they had begun to connect to the critters’ own larger (for a mouse) blood vessels.
If left in place long enough, Lavik [Erin Lavik, Assistant Professor of biomedical engineering at Yale University] says, the watery scaffolds would erode, leaving behind just the new network of blood vessels.
“Hopefully, if these guys actually form new tissue,” she says,” ultimately if you were to implant this you’d be left with tissue and no polymer in the long term.”