Yadong Wang  (Source: University of Pittsburgh)
New lab-grown arteries function just like natural inborn arteries with the help of additional elastin for blood flow

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have created elastic arteries that closely resemble the elasticity of natural blood vessels. 

Yadong Wang, study leader and a professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, along with Donna Stolz, a professor of cell biology and physiology in the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine and Kee-Won Lee, a postdoctoral researcher, have developed elastic arteries grown outside of the body using smooth muscle cells from adult baboons. 

Up until this point, researchers have had a difficult time reproducing elastin in the lab. Some traditional methods, such as using a virus to alter the cell genes or rolling cell sheets into tubes, have worked to an extent, but did not result in this large of an amount of elastin with natural vessels.

The arteries in this particular study are the first arteries grown outside of the body to have a large amount of elastin, which is a protein that helps blood flow by allowing vessels to retract and expand. These lab-made arteries contain 20 percent as much elastin as an "inborn" artery. 

To make these arteries, smooth muscle cells from four-year-old baboons were seeded into degradable rubber tubes. The tubes were placed into a bioreactor that pumped a nutrient-rich solution, which was kept at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, through the tubes and produced a regular pulse, imitating the human circulatory system. The muscle cells then created proteins that fused together to form the vessel as they grew. 

Functional, strong arteries were complete in a three-week period. In lab tests, the researchers found that an artery could handle a burst pressure between 200 and 300 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), where a healthy human blood pressure is below 120 mmHg. 

Wang and his team are now looking to develop a vessel that imitates the three-layer structure of a human artery. 

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