Skip to content

Heart Disease Health Center

Researchers Make Test-Tube Blood Vessels

Font Size
A
A
A

continued...

But, she tells WebMD, there has not been much success translating the work to humans: "We can apply the same techniques to human cells and get them to grow, but they don't grow well enough to form vessels." The stumbling block "is a cellular age problem," she says. "The cell doubling rate -- how quickly [the cells] multiply -- is very low in elderly humans." While healthy pig cells quickly multiply in the nutrient medium, harvested human cells "have about 10 doublings before they conk out and die," she says.

The team is working on "optimizing the biochemical environment to get the human cells to grow," but wimpy cells are not the only obstacle, admits Niklason.

Recent discoveries have changed the way scientists look at atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries. Rather than being a problem with the blood vessels per se, it is now thought to involve inflammation, genetics, and any number of other as-yet-undetermined factors. A major question, then, is how well engineered vessels will fare when they are made up of cells that have this original problem and then put back into people.

"All of the experiments we've done have been on healthy, non-atherosclerotic animals," says Niklason. "It's really an open question how human vessels will do if we grow them from cells taken from atherosclerotic [vessels]."

Niklason is confident that eventually researchers will devise a way to make bioengineered vessels a reality for human patients. "We'll solve it," she says. "In 4 1/2 years, we've taken the project from absolute ground zero to making it work in animals. ... There's no fundamental reason why this isn't going to work. I think it's just a matter of time."

 

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
 
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
 
empty football helmet
Article
red wine
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW