News and Events
Cord Blood News 9/21/2007
Growing New Blood Vessels & Livers
Date: 09. 2007
Source: By Margot Kim, 09/21/2007; Ivanhoe Broadcast News
Damaged livers and diseased blood vessels are two common medical problems, but now, two new breakthroughs could help patients live longer, healthier lives.
Three years ago, life threw Mari Jo Fraser a curve ball. Her liver
was failing. "It was just pure, acute liver failure," she says. A
liver transplant was the only way to save Fraser's life.
Now, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle are
working on an alternative. Scientists grow human liver stem cells and inject them into lab mice induced with liver damage. The stem cells replace thousands of dead liver cells, a technique that could someday repair severely damaged human livers.
"It could be a permanent solution for them, or at least serve as a
bridge until a transplantation can be done," says Nelson Fausto,
M.D., lead researcher at the University of Washington.
The stem cells can also be manipulated to repair bone, cartilage, and other damaged tissue in the body.
In a separate project, researchers involved in the Hope Heart Program at the Benaroya Research Institute are growing artificial blood vessels that could replace damaged ones in the future.
"You can control the production of the structure of the vessel much more precisely and make it stronger," says Thomas N. Wight, Ph.D., lead researcher at the Hope Heart Program at the Benaroya Research Institute.
The process begins when scientists take cells from tissue, grow them into sheets, and form them into tubes. The process could help patients with damaged blood vessels or those with clogged arteries.
"It's like having a new vessel inserted rather than taking a vessel
that's aged, for example, in another part of the body," says Wight.
Right now, both of the aforementioned research projects are being tested in lab rats, but the researchers hope to start testing in humans within the next few years.