In a breakthrough study, researchers in California have successfully grown blood vessels from kidney patients' own skin cells, a development that will increase the ease and safety of dialysis.
The researchers hope that the new technique can one day be used to grow internal organs as well.
It is the first complex bioengineered tissue part built without synthetic components.
Earlier, the bioengineers have only been able to grow sheet-like tissue such as skin from cells alone.
For more complex, three-dimensional growth, they had to provide a structural scaffolding made from nonliving polymer on to which the cells can attach. However, this scaffold can provoke an immune response in the recipient, causing a blockage problem in blood vessels.
Todd McAllister of Cytograft Tissue Engineering in Novato, California, claim to have found a novel way to grow blood vessels without the scaffold.
During the study, the researchers extracted fibroblast cells from a patient and grew them in a flat sheet, which they rolled into a tube and dried.
An all-natural protein scaffold had formed, which was reseeded with more cells to complete the inner and outer lining of the new blood vessel.
"This is the first structural organ built without inclusion of a synthetic scaffold," New Scientist quoted McAllister as saying.
To test its effectiveness, the research team implanting them in the limbs of patients with kidney disease, providing a point of connection to dialysis machines.
They found that the engineered blood vessels remained functional in seven of nine patients one month after implantation and in five of eight patients after six months.
The study appears in The Lancet.