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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scientists have developed a promising method that could one day replace heart surgery with cell injections

Scientists Re-Create Fully Functional Human Blood Vessels In Mice

Scientists have developed a promising method that could one day replace heart surgery with cell injections that would help reconstruct a damaged blood supply system and restore the normal oxygen flow to the heart.

The secret lies in an experimental implant of progenitor cells taken from human adult blood systems, which later developed into fully functional blood vessels in mice. The premiere was reported in Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.

By combining two types of progenitor cells, derived either from adult blood and adult bone marrow, or umbilical cord and adult bone marrow, scientists managed to grow healthy blood vessels, although for now at a slow pace.

Progenitor cells are similar with stem cells, but differentiate through their capability of only turning into certain types of cells. Scientists preferred the use of progenitor cells instead of stem cells because of the high controversy surrounding the latter.

If the experiment could prove efficient for humans treatment, it would not only dismiss any ethical concerns regarding the use of stem cells for any type of treatment, but it would create a solution for ischemia, wound healing and acute injuries, as Joyce Bischoff, lead author of the study and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, explained.

The problem that still remains is the slow process of recreating the blood vessels. The experiment took seven days to complete, but scientists want to reduce that time to one or two days, especially considering the delicate nature of heart conditions and the necessity to act rapidly.

"What's really significant about our study is that we are using human cells that can be obtained from blood or bone marrow rather than removing and using fully developed blood vessels," Bischoff said.

A faster process would most certainly give hope for future cardiac procedures without any surgical intervention, and the variety of progenitor cells able to recreate the heart blood vessels easies up the process of finding a compatible donor.

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