University of Minnesota researchers have developed a blood vessel replacement made of biological materials in a lab. The lab-grown vessels have no living cells at implantation and could be used as a graft for kidney dialysis patients.
The lab-engineered blood vessel replacement is the first nonsynthetic, decellularized graft that is repopulated with cells using the recipient’s cells when implanted. The grafts could also be used as coronary and peripheral bypass blood vessel and tubular heart valves.
Approximately 480,000 people are on dialysis in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. An arteriovenous fistula that connects an artery to a vein in the arm is typically how blood vessels are accessed for hemodialysis, but 30-50% of patients have complications and end up needing to connect the vein and artery using an arteriovenous graft, which is an artificial tube.