Lab Veins Could Revolutionize Bypass Surgery

LONDON – Human veins, grown for the first time in a lab, could revolutionize bypass surgery for thousands every year.

In a breakthrough, researchers created human blood vessels that last for a year or more in cold storage.

These blood vessels, which were mass-produced from donated human muscle tissue, could also help kidney patients dependent on dialysis, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

The scientists said surgeons will soon be able to “grab them off the shelf” during a surgery instead of using veins from the patient’s own body, according to the Daily Mail.

Alan Kypson, of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in the US, involved in the experiment, said: “This new type of bioengineered vein allows them to be easily stored in hospitals so they are readily available to surgeons at time of need.”

“For patients who don’t have suitable veins, the bioengineered veins could serve as an important new way to provide a coronary bypass.”

In the past, scientists have grown replacement veins from a patient’s own cells. However, the process takes at least nine months and most people cannot wait that long for surgery.

The US researchers created 37 blood vessels by culturing smooth muscle cells from a donor on a tube-like scaffold made from biodegradable material.

The cells were bathed in nutrients so they spread over the circular frame in nine months, producing collagen and other substances that meshed into a tube.

By the time the scaffold had dissolved, a fully formed blood vessel was left behind, according to the researchers.

They then washed away the donor muscle cells with detergent, creating a sterile human vein capable of carrying blood. The researchers say veins were strong and elastic even after being stored in a fridge in salt water for a year.

Because the veins can be mass produced, they will be relatively cheap, the researchers say. However, they are unlikely to be available to patients for several years.