Australian researchers are manufacturing blood vessels. 

An international consortium of researchers led by the University of Sydney, has developed technology to enable the manufacturing of materials that mimic the structure of living blood vessels, with significant implications for the future of surgery. 

Preclinical testing has already found that following transplantation of the manufactured blood vessel into mice, the body accepted the material, with new cells and tissue growing in the right places - in essence transforming it into a ‘living blood vessel.’

“Nature converts this manufactured tube over time to one that looks, behaves and functions like a real blood vessel,” says researcher Professor Anthony Weiss.

“The technology’s ability to recreate the complex structure of biological tissues shows it has the potential to not only manufacture blood vessels to assist in surgery, but also sets the scene for the future creation of other synthetic tissues such as heart valves.”

The walls of natural blood vessels comprise a series of concentric rings of elastin (a protein that gives vessels elasticity and the ability to stretch) - like nesting dolls. That makes the rings elastic, which allows blood vessels to expand and contract with blood flow.

This new technology means that, for the first time, these important concentric elastin rings can develop naturally within the walls of implanted tubes.

Unlike current manufacturing processes for synthetic materials used for surgery, which can be lengthy, complex and expensive, this new manufacturing process is swift and well-defined.

“These synthetic vessels are elegant because they are manufactured from just two naturally occurring materials that are well-tolerated by the body,” says lead author and bioengineer Dr Ziyu Wang.

“Tropoelastin (the natural building block for elastin) is packaged in an elastic sheath which dissipates gradually and promotes the formation of highly organised, natural mimics of functioning blood vessels.”

The manufactured tube can also be safely stored in a sterile plastic bag until transplantation.

Co-author Dr Christopher Breuer says the technology has exciting potential for children.

“Currently when kids suffer from an abnormal vessel, surgeons have no choice but to use synthetic vessels that function well for a short time but inevitably children need additional surgeries as they grow. This new technology provides the exciting foundation for the manufactured blood vessels to continue to grow and develop over time,” he said. 

More details are accessible here.