Surgical heart reconstructions using graft materials can do amazing things for patients, but in young children they have a serious limitation. The grafts don’t grow along with a growing heart, and so for procedures such as right ventricular outflow tract reconstructions repeat surgeries are required. Now researchers at University of Minnesota are reporting in journal Nature Communications on newly developed “off-the-shelf” vascular grafts that can grow as the tissue they’re connecting develops and matures.
The grafts are made of fibroblasts within a fibrin gel. These were then introduced to nutrients in a bioreactor which also stimulated the grafts mechanically, making them stronger and able to withstand lots of force. The cells were then washed away to produce the final graft that does not trigger an immune response.