Engineers can now prod stem cells to help build vein and artery networks, overcoming a stumbling block to growing replacement blood vessels in the laboratory.
New blood vessel networks, assembled in the lab for transplant into patients, would be a boon to people with circulatory systems damaged by heart disease, diabetes, or other illnesses.
“That’s our long-term goal: to give doctors a new tool to treat patients who have problems in the pipelines that carry blood through their bodies,” says Sharon Gerecht, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“Finding out how to steer these stem cells into becoming critical building blocks to make these blood vessel networks is an important step.”
Gerecht and colleagues focused on turning stem cells, which can transform into various cell types needed around the body, into vascular smooth muscle cells. They describe the process in an article for the January print edition of Cardiovascular Research, published in advance in the journal’s online edition.