A new gel could improve the survival of bioengineered organs and other tissues by promoting vascularization. Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have reported positive results in early laboratory tests.
The collagen-based gel contains fibrin, a fibrous protein involved in blood clotting. In addition, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) also can be added to the gel. VEGF is a signal protein that helps to create new blood vessels. It also can be used to help regenerated tissues grow new blood vessels, explains Tamer Aboushwareb, MD, PhD, assistant professor of urology.
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The Wake Forest researchers formulated the gel in such a way that it can be injected into the body and control the release of VEGF for up to 12 days. Their goal is to develop a gel that can release VEGF over a longer period, Dr. Aboushwareb said.
The investigators at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have been collaborating on a host of projects using the body’s cells to grow new tissues for damaged organs. One of the co-investigators of the study presented at the American College of Surgeons meeting, Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, has been the renown lead investigator of a team that has grown bladder cells.
However, Dr. Aboushwareb said that among the ongoing problems with placing bioengineered tissues in the body is getting the tissue to grow new blood vessels. “If we can put these gels with these factors on, for example, the bladder, we would then be able to attract vascular tissues to the bladder very early on and greatly improve the survival of this tissue,” Dr. Aboushwareb said. “This gel is an enabling technology that will allow us to enhance the tissues that we make.”
This gel promises to move regenerative medicine to the next level, according to Dr. Aboushwareb. “The field is in prime time right now to be able to place live tissues that need vascularization into patients,” he said. “With this gel and other technologies, we’re giving the entire field a push toward a better construct for tissue replacement.”
The next step is for the investigators to develop a gel with an even slower release of VEGF. “If we can get it to a release time of 28 days or even 58 days, then we’re giving the implanted tissue a much greater chance of allowing the vascular tissue to grow into it,” Dr. Aboushwareb explained. Further down the road the gel may be incorporated into the engineered tissues that doctors will implant.
The researches have begun using the compound in a limited animal trial. They hope to eventually move to a larger animal trial and to human trials thereafter.
Press release: Cell-Based Gel May Improve Survival of Bioengineered
Image: Types of VEGF and receptors (from Wikipedia).