Gross But Cool: Weaving Blood Vessels with Threads of Human Tissue

By Veronique Greenwood | May 7, 2012 1:14 pm

This machine is weaving 48 strands of human connective tissue together into a tube.

Growing fresh blood vessels is a much fantasized-about goal of biomedical engineers. It sounds vaguely vampiric, but the idea is to replace the veins in the arms of dialysis patients, which are a mess from being breached several times a week to be hooked up to a blood-cleaning machine. From there, engineers hope to provide off-the-shelf replacements for heart valves and such.

Most approaches involve getting human cells—either donor cells or cells from the patient—to manufacture rubbery connective tissue made of proteins, from which the cells are stripped away to avoid an immune reaction in patients. Some companies start with flat sheets of this tissue and roll them into tubes, while others have the cells make the stuff around a tubular mold. One company, though, is trying out a technique that made us look twice. They’re weaving the vessels from thread spun with thin strips of cultured connective tissue, Technology Review reports.

The hope is that given manufacturers’ copious experience with machine weaving, these woven structures could be easier to mass-produce than the tubes made with other techniques. Though there isn’t much information publicly available yet on how Cytograft, as the company is called, is making the vessels, the company told Tech Review that early tests in dogs have shown that blood doesn’t leak out from the weave much and the structures stand up to regular puncturing, a must if they are to replace the veins of dialysis patients.

Image courtesy of Cytograft


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology
  • Jenk

    Wait, wait, the blood doesn’t leak from the weave much? How much of a leak is not much of a leak?

  • GuruOfChem

    Dare we say that they’d have the business sewn up if the process works…

    Seriously cool idea, though, all punning aside.

  • Tomek


    Don’t you mean it’s sew cool?

  • Ishmael

    They wouldn’t have to replace the entire vein, just a few inches for the needle, so leakage shouldn’t be much of a problem.

  • Redalice734

    They’ll soon iron out any problems…

    & yes: definitely cool.

  • sigma10

    Transmural leakage in a woven graft is completely normal. It is very temporary since the blood fills-in the gaps and seals the wall quickly. In fact, 350 ml/min x cm2 is considered the upper acceptable limit (and that’s enormous).
    Ref: R. Guidoin, M. King, M. Therrien, E. Debille, D. Boyer, S. Simoneau and L. Tremblay, Woven Velour Polyester Arterial Grafts with Polypropylene Wrap: A Cosmetic Change or Improved Design? In: High performance biomaterials: a comprehensive guide to medical and pharmaceutical applications, ed. M. Szycher (CRC Press/Technomic, 1991), pp. 812.


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