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Brief Published: 19 Jul 2013

Artificial Blood Vessels

Blood vessels

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have used stem cells to create artificial blood vessels that can survive in the body for nine months. The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the first of its kind to produce working vessels that prove durable when implanted into a living host.

The blood vessels were grown in networks from stem cells, with hydrogel acting as a structural scaffold. The cultivated vessels were then implanted on the surface of a mouse brain, where they functioned as efficiently as natural vessels for nine months.

The cells used in the experiment were human-induced pluripotent stem cells, which are produced by reprogramming mature human cells. By using this form of stem cell, scientists could tailor each cultivated blood vessel to ensure a genetic match with the recipient. This would pave the way for more effective treatments for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Synthetic biology – the design and construction of biological devices and systems for useful purposes – was a hot topic at this week’s Stylus Trends Day in London. Projects such as Living Food and Glowing Plants show the potential of synthetic biology to benefit a range of commercial sectors.

The Stylus report Nano Health Technology considers the medical opportunities created by synthetic biology. Similarly, Next: Designing Life, part of the Stylus Macro Trend Balanced Values, explores the ways in which scientists are designing our future lives.