A team of researchers in Canada has developed a technique for growing new blood vessels in a laboratory setting, pointing toward a not too distant future where vascular grafts can be produced outside the body specifically for individual patients using their own starter cells. Collagen has been considered a good candidate for such work due to its low toxicity and biocompatibility, but it’s been hard to shape it into formations that are structurally strong enough for many applications.
Published in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), the method relies on growing the artificial vessels by simultaneously combining collagen and smooth muscles cells and having the cells culture for a period of up to two weeks in a static bioreactor. Following this, the resulting product was transferred to a rotating-wall bioreactor where an endothelium layer, a cell type that naturally exists inside blood vessels, was successfully formed. The researchers performed a number of mechanical tests on the new constructs to gauge their strength, demonstrating that they should be sufficient for tissue engineering applications, while the existence of a continuous endothelium points to them being functionally compatible in comparison to regular vessels. Of course this is still in the laboratory stage and actual implantations will have to be performed to further prove the actual viability of these constructs within the human body.