Three dialysis patients have received the world’s first blood vessels grown in a lab from donated skin cells. It’s a key step toward creating a supply of ready-to-use arteries and veins that could be used to treat diabetics, soldiers with damaged limbs, people having heart bypass surgery and others.
The goal is to one day have a refrigerated inventory of these in various sizes and shapes that surgeons could order up as needed like bandages and other medical supplies.
The work so far is still early-stage. Three patients in Poland have received the new vessels, which are working well two to eight months later. But doctors are excited because this builds on earlier success in about a dozen patients given blood vessels grown in the lab from their own skin — a process too long and expensive to be practical.
“This version, built from a master donor, is available off the shelf and at a dramatically reduced cost,” estimated at $6,000 to $10,000, said Todd McAllister, chief of Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc., the San Francisco-area company leading the work.
The American Heart Association considers it so promising that the group featured it in the first of a new series of webcasts about cutting-edge science.
“This is tremendously exciting,” because the failure of blood vessels used in dialysis is “a huge public health problem,” said Duke University’s Dr. Robert Harrington, a heart expert who had no role in the work.