Researchers have devised a new way to make long-lasting, functional blood vessels in mice. The method, described in a Brief Communication in Nature (Vol. 428, No. 6979, pp. 138-139), may help those who wish to produce artificial vascular networks for human use.
Rakesh K. Jain and colleagues cultured two types of cell together inside a three-dimensional fibre gel - lining cells from human umbilical vein were grown with mesenchymal precursor cells, which are able to develop into connective tissue and blood vessels. The vascular networks were then implanted into mice, where they survived for around a year.
The lining cells formed a network of long, branching tubes, which connected with the mouse's own circulatory system and became filled with blood. The mesenchymal cells became incorporated into the vessel walls.
Together, the two cell types give the network added stability, the authors say. When lining cells are grafted alone, they fail within around 60 days. The technique also reduces the need for genetic modification. In the past, researchers have inserted genes into vascular cells to enhance their survival, but this can make them unstable and may trigger cancerous changes, the authors point out.
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