Naturally Growing Bio-Implants : A Huge Breakthrough

Bio-engineered heart vessel implant. Image source: Aquilant Interventional
Lab-grown implants

Remember the days of science fiction where one could grow artificial body parts (organs, implants). Well, we have already passed that stage to the point that we can 3D print them or order them from a lab.

But there is a caveat, they are artificial.

The last time scientists checked artificial things did not grow. However, a team of scientists at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota, led by Zeeshan Syedain have developed artificial blood vessels capable of expansion and growth, just like regular blood vessels.

It could revolutionize paediatric cardiovascular surgery as children would not have to undergo repeated surgeries to remove outgrown artificial blood vessels.

Where it all started

It all started from a bladder, artificially grown in a North Carolina laboratory in 1996. Since that time, scientists have grown complex structures such as limbs, wind pipes, nose, and arteries.

Now the quest to grow beating heart in lab is almost achieved. Scientists have turned their focus on growing organs that can grow and expand just as their hosts.

This is where the team led by Zeeshan Syedain made an important breakthrough. They have synthesized “off the shelf” synthetic blood vessel.

The synthetic blood vessels are synthesized by first placing the donor cells in a bioreactor to grow. The result is a vessel-like scaffold. The obtained vessel-like scaffolds are decellularized, to remove any of the original cells.

What remains are the vessel-shaped protein scaffolds that will not be rejected by host body, when implanted.

Nature Communications 7, Article number: 12951 (2016)
Decullarized tissue used in implants. Image Source : Nature
From lab to clinics

But, this is not the first time that scientists have had a eureka moment in the lab and failed to deliver to the clinics.

However the study’s co-author Professor Rober Tranquillo is optimistic about clinical trials.

“This is a perfect marriage between tissue engineering and regenerative medicine” he feels.

“Tissue is grown in the lab and then, after implanting the decellularized tissue, the natural processes of the recipient’s body makes it a living tissue again”.

Tranquillo said the next step would be to get FDA approval. His team is coordinating with doctors to conduct human trials.

If achieved, this research could be the key in organ transplant making graft rejection obsolete. With these “of-the-shelf” implants, a day may come when children merely have to undergo one implant surgery. This will lower the risk of developing complications due to surgery.

Source Nature University of Minnesota

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