HEALTHWATCH: New Hope for Dialysis: Bioengineered Blood Vessels


Published 05/13 2014 06:12PM

Updated 05/13 2014 06:47PM

DURHAM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Nearly 400-thousand Americans are on dialysis for kidney failure. The treatment uses a special machine to filter toxins from the blood and often requires a graft to connect an artery to a vein to speed blood flow. But in many patients, synthetic grafts lead to infection and frequent hospitalizations. Now a first of its kind bioengineered blood vessel is changing that.


William Alexander has suffered with kidney failure for 15 years. Dialysis keeps him alive.


"[It's not] like you can't do it," Alexander told Ivanhoe. "You've got to have dialysis to live."


However, his arm tells the story of failed blood vessel grafts used to help clean his blood.


"It's disfiguring," Jeffrey Lawson, MD, PhD, Professor of Vascular Surgery and Pathology at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., told Ivanhoe.


It's a reality Dr. Lawson says most patients face.


"I tell many of my patients they can expect to have a procedure related to dialysis at least once a year," Dr. Lawson explained.


Now, a new bioengineered blood vessel using donated human cells could change that.


"We'll be able to reduce the number of interventions they have to have," Dr. Lawson said.


At the lab, Dr. Shannon Dahl says donated cells are placed in a bioreactor and cultured for two months.


"So we're growing the cells and we're putting the bioreactor parts together," Shannon L.M. Dahl, PhD, Vice-President, Scientific Operations, cofounder, Humacyte, Inc., Durham, N.C., told Ivanhoe.


Once the vessel is formed, it's cleansed of the donor cells, leaving a collagen structure that the body readily accepts as its own.


"It then becomes your blood vessel as your body grows into it, which is very, very exciting," Dr. Dahl explained.


Alexander had the bioengineered vessel placed in his right arm eight months ago.


"I don't have any trouble and it's doing good, and I'm glad it's doing good," Alexander said. 

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