It’s a fairly common practice when studying a disease, testing a new drug, or developing new medical technology to do murine or simian studies to measure efficacy or to look for certain issues like side effects. However, we know that mice and monkeys don’t develop diseases the same way that humans do, so they often don’t make for the most ideal test subjects.
A University of Washington bioengineer has succeeded in creating a 3D structure of human blood vessels that can not only smoothly transport human blood, but can also react similarly to human blood vessels when subjected to chemicals and proteins found in the body. The structure consists of a scaffold made of collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, and human epithelial cells (found in the lining of human blood vessels), which grew to form a network of tubes capable of transporting blood cells.
As we mentioned, the engineered blood vessels act amazingly similar to human blood vessels when exposed to certain substances. When brain cells were injected into the surrounding collagen scaffolding, the cells released a chemical which caused the blood vessels to sprout new branches. Treating the vessels with an inflammatory compound caused them to form clots, much like actual inflamed blood vessels. When a signaling protein that’s found to be abnormally abundant in cancer was added to the system, new, leaky blood vessels formed. That’s similar to the way cancer metastasizes; chemicals are secreted from a tumor that cause surrounding blood vessels to bulge and sprout and help spread cancerous cells to other parts of the body.
The system will eventually be used to study inflammation, clotting, and diseases such as malaria. Someday, we may even use to test drugs and devices and help grow human tissue.
Article from the University of Washington: Engineered microvessels provide a 3-D test bed for human diseases…