A surgeon at Duke University performed the first U.S. implantation of a bioengineered blood vessel on Wednesday, using a new technique that may improve the lives of dialysis patients.
A non-living tube built using living cells, a bioengineered blood vessel resembles natural blood vessels in size and strength but is not made of unnatural materials like synthetic blood vessels, called grafts. Commonly made of Teflon or plastic, synthetic grafts are prone to infection, blood clotting and immune rejection.
Vascular surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Lawson and a team of doctors at Duke University Hospitals implanted into a man’s arm a bioengineered vessel that researchers hope, and animal trials suggest, will eventually replace synthetic grafts.
In dialysis, kidney patients have blood removed from their veins with one needle so it can be cleaned and filtered before being reinserted with a second needle. The treatment can damage a patient’s veins. If the veins are too small or weak for the procedure, a graft is implanted into the patient’s arm and connected to an artery.
Wednesday’s procedure is the first of 20 initial U.S. trials for the bioengineered blood vessel, at Duke and two other medical centers. The first vessels were implanted in humans in December in Poland and used for dialysis in February. Lawson helped train the Polish surgeons and witnessed the procedure.