Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have figured out how to grow arteries with highest level of elastin protein found in natural arteries, the most reported in vessels grown outside the body. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a weekly journal.
This could overcome a major barrier to creating living tissue replacements for damaged arteries.
The researchers used smooth muscle cells from adult baboons to make the elastin. The elastin allows the cells to expand and retract in response to blood flow. They cultured the baboon cells in a nutrient-rich solution to bear arteries with approximately 20 percent as much elastin as an inborn artery.
Elastin, unlike collagen, which is tougher and gives vessels their shape, has been dfficult to reproduce.
It took them three weeks to have functional arteries. They seeded muscle cells from baboons into degradable rubber tubes. Then they pumped the tubes into degradable rubber tubes chambered like honey combs. Those were then transferred to a bioreacter that pumped the nutrient solution through, mimicking the human circulatory system. This resembles how it would be used in a patient.
Lead researcher Yadong Wang said although this process took three years, they still are in the early phases. They will then test it out on animals and humans.