Vascular prostheses from the bioreactor

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Bypasses from human cells could become an alternative to synthetic material in the future

It is a vision that may open up entirely new possibilities in the treatment of circulatory disorders: biologically compatible bypasses made from the patient's own cells. The bypasses grown in a bioreactor from blood and tissue cells are expected to be a significantly better tolerated alternative to conventional bypasses made from synthetic material.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Leibniz University is working on this at NIFE (Lower Saxony Center for Biomedical Engineering, Implant Research and Development) and has received the 2017 VDI Technology Award.

Circulatory disorders in the arteries can, in the worst case, lead to heart attack or stroke. In these cases, bypasses must be inserted urgently. In the case of vascular prostheses made of synthetic material such as Goretex, blood clotting must then be permanently reduced by medication, because otherwise there is a risk that the bypass will become clogged due to the material structure and there will be renewed vascular occlusion.

The anticoagulant drugs are not easy to use and can cause complications. Synthetic bypasses can also become infected. Venous autologous material that can be taken from patients elsewhere in the body and used is often not available in sufficient quantity and quality. There is therefore a great need for artificial vascular prostheses.

Research into bypasses made from animal material has been going on for a long time - but apart from ethical concerns, there have so far been problems with rejection and deposition processes. The scientists at Leibniz University are taking a different approach. They want to settle cells of the patient on a tubular scaffold structure made of synthetic material - a so-called scaffold. In a cultivation process in the bioreactor, a bypass develops from this, which can then be implanted. The scaffold is later degraded so that the vascular prosthesis consists only of the body's own material.

The scientists from the Institute of Technical Chemistry and the Institute of Microelectronic Systems jointly developed the technology for the cultivation. "Conditions in the bioreactor must mimic those in the human body," explains Prof. Cornelia Blume from the Institute of Technical Chemistry.

Heartbeat and blood pressure are simulated so that a bypass can be created in two to three weeks. "The further maturation process takes place in the body after implantation. The best bioreactor is the human being," she adds. The sensitive control and sensor technology as well as the monitoring via ultrasound - the bioreactor must hardly be opened during the process - were developed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Holger Blume and his team from the Institute for Microelectronic Systems.

In the project, which is funded by the DFG, the researchers are working closely with Hannover Medical School and other partners. Applicability doesn't seem so far off: "We hope to be ready to test the bypasses in trials with sheep in about three years," says Prof. Cornelia Blume. This will be followed by the clinical phase with the approval process in humans.

Note to editors:

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. med. Cornelia Blume from the Institute of Technical Chemistry by phone (+49 177 86 69 328) or E-mail gladly at your disposal.

Mechtild Freiin v. Münchhausen | idw - Science Information Service

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