Rolls of fat might soon be put to good use in helping patients with coronary artery disease. Over 20,000 people in the UK will have heart bypass surgery this year. Typically the replacement vessels used to bypass a section of the coronary artery come from the patient’s leg, arm or chest. Problems can arise with these small-diameter vessel grafts such as clotting, for example. New research shows that liposuction-derived vessels could be a viable alternative. Adult stem cells extracted during liposuction were used to grow healthy new small-diameter blood vessels in the lab. Stem cells were turned into smooth muscle cells, then ‘seeded’ onto a thin collagen membrane, where they proliferated before being rolled into tubes mimicking small vessels. Within three to four weeks, usable blood vessels had formed. Researchers report the vessels prevent accumulation of blood platelets, which cause arteries to narrow.
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