Blood vessels from stem cells offer heart disease hope

Behind the Headlines

Tuesday July 10 2007

A technique developed in animals for producing blood vessels from bone marrow stem cells, which has been successful in lambs, offers hope for treating human heart disease, according to newspaper reports. “In future similar implants could be used to give heart bypass patients a new lease of life ,” the Daily Mail said.

The next day, The Daily Telegraph, under the headline "Blood vessels tests may aid heart victims", said that the technique offered hope for the treatment of heart disease, particularly for patients who need heart bypass surgery. It added that in normal bypass surgery "suitable grafts can be difficult to find and have a high 10-year failure rate".

The researchers say the work will "have high potential for the development of cell therapies for treatment" of heart disease. However, definitive conclusions about these techniques will only be possible when more animal and human studies have been done.

 

Where did the story come from?

The story is based on a study that was not fully published, although the latest version of it was available online through Cardiovascular Research, a medical journal. The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York) in New York and was funded by the University at Buffalo.

 

What kind of scientific study was this?

The study was a laboratory–based animal study. Researchers developed a new method for making tissue that can act like blood vessels out of stem cells from bone marrow in sheep. Cells from the bone marrow were taken out and grown under laboratory conditions to produce tube-shaped tissue. Sections of the tubes were then sewn into the jugular veins of eight week old lambs.

 

What were the results of the study?

After five weeks, the researchers looked at how the manufactured vessels had performed. They found similarities between the laboratory-made vessels and the natural blood vessels in the lambs. They found that, like normal blood vessels, the engineered tissue had the ability to express certain genes.

 

The engineered vessels were also able to contract. This is an important feature of blood vessels when they are carrying blood.  The engineered vessels also contained collagen and elastin fibres, both of which are important to ensure the proper function of blood vessels.

 

What interpretations did the researchers draw from these results?

The researchers say that their study will help us to understand how normal vessels are formed and that their methods "have high potential for the development of cell therapies for treatment" of heart disease.

 

 

What does the NHS Knowledge Service make of this study?

The results of studies in animals cannot always be reproduced in humans, Researchers working with human stem cells will be looking at these results with interest, but the clinical use could take more than a decade to develop.

 

This research appears to be a good laboratory study, using quite complicated methods. Without looking in detail at these methods, we must be careful about assuming that the engineered vessels would respond in humans in the same way. The study did not involve human tissue or embryos.

The researchers say that their study will help us to understand how normal vessels are formed and that their methods "have high potential for the development of cell therapies for treatment" of heart disease. We will only be able to draw definitive conclusions about these techniques when more animal and human studies have been done.

Analysis by SunnyVale

Edited by NHS Choices

Links to the headlines

Blood vessels may aid heart victims. The Daily Telegraph, July 9 2007

Heart disease hope in stem cells. The Guardian, July 9 2007

Blood vessels made from bones offer hope for bypass patients. Daily Mail, July 8 2007

Links to the science

Liu JY, Swartz DD, Peng HF, et al. Functional tissue-engineered blood vessels from bone marrow progenitor cells. Cardiovasc Res 2007; 75:618-628

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