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Arteries bio-engineered from elderly cells

DURHAM, N.C. Researchers from Duke University's Medical Center and Pratt School of Engineering have demonstrated that they can grow new human blood vessels from cells taken from patients who especially need such assistance older adults with cardiovascular disease.

The researchers said the results of their latest experiments represent a "proof of principle" for an approach that could be clinically applicable within five to ten years. The first to benefit from such bio-engineered arteries, according to lead researcher Laura Niklason, M.D., Ph.D., could be older patients with cardiovascular disease who need blockages in their arteries "bypassed" but do not have their own natural vessels available.

The results of the Duke experiments were published June 18, 2005, in the Lancet. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the American Federation for Aging Research.

"There is a great need for viable alternatives to our current available options for treating patients with coronary artery or peripheral arterial disease," said Niklason, an associate professor of both anesthesiology and biomedical engineering. "In this current study, we took vascular cells from four elderly men with heart disease and engineered new blood vessels.

"The ability to grow new vessels from older cells represents a crucial initial step towards growing blood vessels from a patient's own cells that can be used to treat that patient's vascular disease," she continued.

In 1999, Niklason demonstrated she could grow new blood vessels in animal models by using a novel bioreactor she developed that mimics the fetal environment. When implanted back into the animals, the bioengineered vessels functioned like natural arteries. Unlike the cells in these experiments, however, human artery cells do not possess enough life cycles to be grown into functional arteries.

In collaboration with Duke cancer researcher Christopher Counter, Ph.D., an
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Contact: Richard Merritt
Merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
16-Jun-2005


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