Scientists grow vessels from autologous fat

August 1, 2012

Liposuction can provide raw materials for engineers to grow small-diameter blood vessels, new research suggests.

New Orleans - Liposuction can provide raw materials for engineers to grow small-diameter blood vessels, new research suggests.

Scientists with the University of Oklahoma School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering found that adult stem cells extracted from autologous fat tissue, then cultured into sheets and rolled into tiny vessels, performed as well as natural vessels on elastic contractility, MedPage Today reports.

Currently, internal mammary arteries provide the best conduit for bypassing blocked arteries in the heart, for instance, but there are often too few of them to be used for multivessel procedures. Synthetic grafts are an option, but only for vessels 6 mm or larger.

Tissue engineering could overcome these limitations, researchers said. A couple of tablespoons of fat from a liposuction procedure can provide enough stem cells to seed a new vessel.

The stem cells are differentiated into smooth muscle cells in the lab, then “seeded” onto a flat sheet of decellularized collagen from discarded placenta, which is a material approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Once the patient’s cells colonize the scaffold, it’s rolled into a thin tube of the desired diameter. The process takes three to four weeks to complete.

MedPage Today reports that the engineered vessel’s thickness and architecture matched that of a porcine coronary artery in a histological analysis, and that it performed better than the porcine vessel in a tensile strength test for elasticity.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences meeting in New Orleans.

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