A blocked blood vessel can be pretty nasty, and the two most common treatments involve wedging it open or transplanting another vessel from elsewhere in your body. Scientists in Vienna think they may have a slightly more elegant solution to the latter, having developed a method of replacing blocked vessels with artificial ones. The clever part here is that the synthetic polymer that the prostheses are made of encourages the body to grow a real vessel in its place. In one trial on a rat, it took less than six months before the artificial material had broken down and been replaced with a brand new blood vessel.
A joint partnership between Vienna’s Technological and Medical universities looked into finding a suitable material for the prosthetic vessels. In the end, the team spun thermoplastic polyurethanes in an electrical field to create the minute tubes necessary for implantation. Because the material is slightly porous, microscopic quantities of blood are able to pass through, which covers the artificial vessel in “growth factors.” After then, it’s just a matter of time until the body can build a biological replacement. Naturally, there’s still plenty of research to be done, but the team is hopeful that the procedure will eventually make its way into medicine. Oh, and if you’re curious about what one looks like and you really aren’t squeamish, you can find a picture here.
[Image Credit: TU Wien]