Making Human Textiles: Research Team Ups the Ante With Development of Blood Vessels Woven from Donor Cells
A lot of people were skeptical when two young California-based researchers set out more than a decade ago to create a completely human-derived alternative to the synthetic blood vessels commonly used in dialysis patients. Since then, they’ve done that and more.
There were a lot of doubts in the field that you could make a blood vessel, which is something that needs to resist pressure constantly, 24-7, without any synthetic materials in it,” explains Nicolas L’Heureux, a co-founder and the chief scientific officer of Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc. “They didn’t think that was possible at all.” But they were wrong.
Cytograft, which L’Heureux and Todd McAllister co-founded in 2000, has indeed developed vessels that are “completely biological, completely human and living, which is the Cadillac of treatments … and it seems to work really well,” L’Heureux says.
First the team created blood vessels from patients’ own skin cells. Then, in June, the company announced that three dialysis patients had received the world’s first lab-grown blood vessels made from skin cells from donors, which eliminates the long lead time needed for making vessels from a patient’s own cells. And now Cytograft has developed a new technique for making human textiles that promises to reduce the production cost of these vessels by half.