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Engineered vessels go LIVE:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fluorescence microscope image of a section of an engineered microvascular network. In red are the outlines of the endothelial vessel cells. In green are tissue cells that form the sheath of blood vessels. In blue are the nuclei. (Credit: Ying Zheng).

The Stroock group has developed living blood vessels that grow, interact, and respond to stress like natural blood vessels. This work was published in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy.  To form the capillary-like “microvessels” the team used microfluidic structures formed in a tissue-like matrix formed of collagen.  They then grew endothelial cells (the cells that line all blood vessels) on the inner walls of these channels.  Importantly, the 3-D matrix surrounding these vessels allowed for the cells themselves to change the structure and, for example, form new vessel sprouts.  This characteristic allowed the researchers to study the response of the vessels to chemical stimuli that mimic those generated by cancerous tumors and to investigate interactions between the vessels and cells that commonly surround microvessels in the human body. In collaboration with the University of Washington Medical School, they further ran experiments with whole human blood and found that the healthy vessels provided a non-adhesive interface that transported blood without clotting, while vessels treated with an inflammatory compound presented a strong clotting response.  The researchers anticipate the vessels could be used to test drugs and drug delivery strategies for conditions such as high blood pressure and sickle cells disease. The technique could also provide a starting point for growth of vascularized living tissues for use in regenerative medicine, according to the authors.  This work was supported by the Cornell Center on the Microenvironment and Metastasis, NYSTAR, and the Human Frontiers in Science Programme, among others.

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