The research headed up by Professor Robert Tranquillo at the University of Minnesota, believes the success of this pioneering experiment could be the first of its kind and was quoted as saying “This might be the first time we have an ‘off-the-shelf’ material that doctors can implant in a patient.”
The breakthrough is particularly relevant in the treatment of children with heart defects and could reduce implant surgeries in children from the standard 5 + surgeries needed before they reach adulthood to just 1.
Trailing the discovery on lambs, they mixed sheep skin cells with a gelatinous substance called fibrin and moulded it into a tube-like vessel shape. With a bioreactor, they systematically injected the necessary nutrients for cell growth, with the bioreactor also serving to strengthen the tube. Once complete, appropriate cleansing agents were used to remove the sheep cells so only a cell-free matrix was left.
Once formed, they implanted the lab-grown blood vessel into lambs replacing parts of their pulmonary arteries. Following the procedure and much to the success of the experiment, the lamb’s cells started to grow around the vessel allowing the vessel to grow in-sync with the lamb’s tissue into adulthood.
The implications on the treatment of heart defects in children and family life is incredibly important here. The reduction in trauma dropping from 5 + surgeries to 1, time taken out of school for treatment and overall childhood dependency on hospitals would improve significantly. Tranquillo is currently in the process of investigating how to get clearance from the FDA for the first trails on people.