‘Cyborg engineering’ to help bypass grafting

June 4th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 4 (IANS) In what has been described as a ‘medical breakthrough’, scientists have successfully grafted artificial veins and arteries onto human tissue in a lab environment. They are now a step closer to actually using synthetic veins and arteries in a coronary bypass surgery, ScienceDaily reported.

The team combined man-made materials with human cells to make it elastic and durable enough for attachment to the host tissue.

The development, described in the latest issue of the FASEB Journal, could save millions worldwide, according to Gerald Weissmann, the journal’s editor-in-chief.

Weissmann described as “tantalising” the successful fusing of living cells to nonliving substances that actually led to healing by forming a stronger bond.

This, he said, might even be called a step toward “cyborg engineering”.

“The notion that any body part could be engineered in a lab, attached to existing tissue ‘naturally’, and grow stronger as it is being used is something thought completely impossible just 20 years ago,” Weissmann said.

“It is only a matter of time before human tissues can be engineered to be at least as good as the originals, and this study moves us toward that reality.”

The surgeons have explained how they took an elastic scaffold of compliant polyurethane and incorporated in them human vascular smooth muscle cells and epithelial cells from the umbilical cord.

They then took the artificial grafts and simulated blood flow in the lab to test their durability. They found that as the pulsing fluid flow slowly increased, the artificial graft’s performance actually improved.

According to National Institutes of Health, coronary artery bypass grafting is the most common open-heart surgery in the US alone, with 500,000 procedures performed each year.

During this surgery, a healthy vein or artery from another part of the body is connected to the blocked coronary artery to route blood flow around a blocked passage.

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