Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to induce cells to form parallel tube-like structures, opening the possibility of engineered blood vessels.
The researchers believe that the engineered blood vessels can be transplanted into tissues such as kidneys, liver, heart or any other organs that requires big amounts of vascular tissue.
The researchers found that the cell development can controlled by growing them on a surface with nano-scale patterning.
Robert Langer, author of the paper and Professor MIT said that the nano-based systems can provide a novel way to engineer tissues.
"It provides a new way to create nano-based systems with what we hope will provide a novel way to someday engineer tissues in the human body," said Langer
"We are very excited about this work," he added.
The study focussed on vascular tissue that included capillaries, which is an important part of the circulatory system.
The team has constructed a surface that may serve as a template to grow capillary tubes allying in a particular direction.
The researchers constructed the template, patterned with ridges and grooves, using microfabrication machinery at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge.
Christopher Bettinger, lead author of the paper and MIT graduate student in materials science and engineering said that these cells known as endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) senses the patterns and draws itself into the direction of grooves.
"The cells can sense (the patterns), and they end up elongated in the direction of those grooves," he said.
That results in a multicellular structure with defined edges, also called a band structure then the researchers applied a commonly used gel that induced the cells to form three-dimensional tubes.
The researchers believe the technique works best with EPCs because they are relatively immature cells.
However, previous attempts with other types of cells, including mature epithelial cells, did not produce band structures.
The study appears on the online issue of Advanced Materials.