For the first time in the U.S., surgeons have successfully transplanted a bioengineered blood vessel into the arm of a patient -- a possible stepping stone toward more complex human-engineered organs such as livers or eyes, and potentially a more immediate boon for kidney dialysis patients and perhaps even people with heart disease.
The surgery represents a major milestone for tissue engineering: The bioengineered blood vessel can be stored relatively easily and donated universally (unlike veins harvested from a patient's own body and therefore specific to that body). Also, it's human-cell-based, with no biological properties that can cause organ rejection.
"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," Jeffrey H. Lawson, a vascular surgeon and biologist at Duke Medicine who helped develop the technology and performed the implantation, said in a statement. "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."… Read more