An international consortium of researchers led by the University of Sydney has developed a technology that enables the production of materials that mimic the structure of living blood vessels, with significant implications for the future of surgery.
Preclinical tests found that after transplanting the engineered blood vessel into mice, the body accepted the material, with new cells and tissues growing in the right places — essentially transforming it into a “living” blood vessel.
Senior author Professor Anthony Weiss of the Charles Perkins Center said that while others had tried to build blood vessels with varying degrees of success before, this was the first time scientists had seen vessels develop with such a high degree of similarity to the complex structure of naturally occurring blood vessels.
“Nature transforms this manufactured tube over time into one that looks, behaves and functions like a real blood vessel,” Professor Weiss said.
“The technology’s ability to recreate the complex structure of biological tissues shows that it has the potential not only to produce blood vessels to aid in surgery, but also sets the stage for the future creation of other synthetic tissues such as heart valves.”
Co-author Dr. Christopher Breuer of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, said he was excited about the study’s potential for children.
“Currently, when children suffer from an abnormal vessel, surgeons have no choice but to use synthetic vessels, which function well for a short time, but children inevitably need further operations as they grow. This new technology provides the exciting foundation for engineered blood vessels to continue to grow and evolve over time.”
Lead author and bioengineer Dr Ziyu Wang of the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center pioneered the technology, developed as part of his Ph.D. It builds on earlier work by Dr. Suzanne Miteau, also at the Charles Perkins Center.
The walls of natural blood vessels consist of a series of concentric rings of elastin (a protein that gives vessels elasticity and their ability to stretch) – like dolls. This makes the rings elastic, allowing the blood vessels to expand and contract with blood flow.
This new technology means that for the first time these important concentric rings of elastin can develop naturally in the walls of implanted tubes.
Unlike current manufacturing processes for synthetic materials used for surgery, which can be long, complex and expensive, this new manufacturing process is fast and well-defined.
“These synthetic vessels are elegant because they are made from only two naturally occurring materials that are well tolerated by the body,” said Dr. Wang.
“Tropoelastin (the natural building block for elastin) is packaged in an elastic sheath that gradually dissipates and promotes the formation of highly organized, natural mimics of functioning blood vessels.”
The produced tube can also be stored safely in a sterile plastic bag until transplantation.
The study, led by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center and the Faculty of Science, is published in the international journal Advanced materials.
Scientists capture the “disruption” of cells during the development of blood vessels
Ziyu Wang et al, Rapid regeneration of neoartery with elastic lamellae, Advanced materials (2022). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202205614
Courtesy of the University of Sydney
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