Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc. has created human blood vessels in the lab using a patients' own skin cells. Lab grown human blood vessels would have many uses, such as for dialysis patients and patients with heart disease. The Cytograft team is deconstructing sheets of cultured cells into threads and then using a variety of medical-textile-making techniques to weave together blood vessels. Most medical textiles used today are made of permanent synthetic fibers, such as polyester.
Nicolas L'Heureux, a co-founder and the chief scientific officer of Cytograft, says, "There were a lot of doubts in the field that you could make a blood vessel, which is something that needs to resist pressure constantly, 24-7, without any synthetic materials in it. They didn't think that was possible at all."
L'Heureux also says, "They weave synthetic threads to create patches, for example, for blood vessels ... and they can make a large blood-vessel replacement conduit that they use for arterial repair. They can use patches for hernia repair. What we are doing here is using a completely biological, completely human - and chemically nonprocessed in any way - fiber from which we can now build all kinds of structures by weaving, knitting, braiding or a combination of techniques."
Cytograft says this type of sewing is not your grandmother's knitting. L'Heureux says, "It is not like your grandmother with the little knitting pins. It is much faster than that. Basically, the time it takes for making the threads and assembling them in a blood vessel is negligible compared to the time that it took you to make the sheet."
The human blood vessels are currently in animal trials. Scientific American has an article on the research here. Here is an animation of the breakthrough: