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Man with End-Stage Kidney Disease First in U.S to Get a Bioengineered Blood Vessel

Jun 07, 2013 07:54 AM EDT

A man with end-stage kidney disease has become the first patient in the U.S. to get a lab-grown blood vessel.

The pioneering surgery was performed by surgeons from Duke University Hospital. The surgery has shown that bioengineered materials can be used to treat a complication. And these materials don't have biological properties that would cause the body to reject them.

The vein was created using human blood cells grown on a tubular skeleton (a scaffold). This tubular structure was then cleaned on any biological material. The bioengineered vein was developed by researchers from Duke and at a spin-off company it started called Humacyte. In clinical tests, the vein has performed better than animal-based or synthetic implants.

Over 350,000 people in the U.S. undergo hemodialysis that requires a graft that connects an artery to a vein. This graft helps the blood flow easily during treatments. Synthetic grafts are used currently; however, they are prone to clotting. There is also an option of making a graft from the patient's body, but this procedure involves the risk of an infection.  

The biodegradable mesh supports the growth of a vein and then dissolves as the cells grow in a medium that has amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

The bioengineered vein has no such risks and researchers say that if the graft passes clinical trials, then it can be an effective treatment for thousands on dialysis.

In the current study, the 62-year-old man from Danville, Va., underwent the two-hour procedure on June 5, 2013. The bioengineered blood vein was transplanted in his arm.

"This is a pioneering event in medicine. It's exciting to see something you've worked on for so long become a reality. We talk about translational technology - developing ideas from the laboratory to clinical practice - and this only happens where there is the multi-disciplinary support and collaboration to cultivate it ," said Jeffrey H. Lawson, M.D., PhD, a vascular surgeon and vascular biologist at Duke Medicine.

"We hope this sets the groundwork for how these things can be grown, how they can incorporate into the host, and how they can avoid being rejected immunologically," Lawson said in a news release. "A blood vessel is really an organ - it's complex tissue. We start with this, and one day we may be able to engineer a liver or a kidney or an eye."

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