Artificial blood vessels may reduce need for multiple surgeries in young heart patients

Open-heart surgery is an especially risky procedure for children, with mortality rates reaching 20 percent for complex operations. Also, because their hearts are still growing, some children may require up to five open-heart procedures to resize conduits.

A recent breakthrough from the University of Minnesota may keep that number at one.

Researchers there have discovered a way to manufacture synthetic blood vessels that grow when implanted in the body, unlike the standard tissue grafs that are currently used to correct faulty blood vessels.

These vessels are made from gels seeded with living cells called fibroblasts. These cells produce collagen, which are wrapped around rods and grown in a bioreactor that provides the cells with the warmth, exercise and nutrients needed to grow.

The cells are washed in detergent before they are implanted in order to prevent an immune reaction in the recipient.

The vessels have successfully been implanted in young lambs.

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