When blood vessels that supply the heart get clogged up, they need to be replaced to restore the blood supply to the heart and prevent heart attack. This replacement is done through a surgical procedure called a heart bypass. In many cases, blood vessels from the patient’s legs are removed and use as replacement blood vessel in a surgical procedure called heart bypass. However, some patients do not have suitable blood vessels for replacement so that surgeons have to use artificial blood vessels. Currently, artificial blood vessels are made from synthetic materials that unfortunately increase the risk for blood clots. This is why patients who have had a heart bypass need to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots.
New advances in biotechnology indicate that the procedure of heart bypass will soon undergo a major revolution.
Using proteins to regrow blood vessels
Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine have developed a protein-based injection that can induce blood vessels to regrow and thus eliminating the need for open heart surgery. The researchers have tested the protein-based therapy in mice with very promising results. Blood vessel regeneration occurred within a weeks and got integrated into the circulatory system. According to researcher Dr. Britta Hardy:
“Our technology promises to regrow blood vessels like a net, and a heart that grows more blood vessels becomes stronger. It’s now imaginable that, in the distant future, peptide injections may be able to replace bypass surgeries.”
Using bacteria to grow new blood vessels
Single-celled organisms called bacteria can be our friend or foe. They can cause infections that can be mild or life-threatening. They can, however, be harnessed to produce life-saving products such as insulin. In a latest advancement in biotechnology, a species of bacteria is being harnessed to produce artificial blood vessels.
Swedish researchers report that about a technique using bacteria to synthesize new blood vessels. The bacterium Acetobacter xylinum can produce blood vessels made from cellulose that is strong enough to withstand blood pressure and is compatible with the human body’s own tissue. In addition, blood vessels made from cellulose seem to have a lower risk of blood clots compared to the synthetic blood vessels currently in use.
According to researcher Helen Fink, a molecular biologist at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden:
“There are hardly any blood clots at all with the bacterial cellulose, and the blood coagulates much more slowly than with the materials I used as a comparison. This means that the cellulose works very well in contact with the blood and is a very interesting alternative for artificial blood vessels.”