Researchers Turn Liposuctioned Fat Cells Into Small Blood Vessels

Regenerative medicine gets another boost. A team of researchers out of Oklahoma used adult stem cells extracted during liposuction to grow healthy new small-diameter blood vessels for use in heart bypass surgery and other procedures.

The preliminary findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s
Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2012 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

Cosmetic and dermatologic surgeons will likely be pioneers in the growing field of regenerative medicine as they are the specialists who have intimate knowledge and experience with fat and all that it comprises including adult stem cells and other potent growth factors.

In this study, adult stem cells derived from fat are turned into smooth muscle cells in the laboratory, and then “seeded” onto a very thin collagen membrane. As the stem cells multiplied, the researchers rolled them into tubes matching the diameter of small blood vessels. In 3 to 4 weeks, they grew into usable blood vessels. The researchers hope to have a working prototype to test in animals within 6 months.

The need for such grow-your-own blood vessels is enormous. Millions of cardiovascular disease patients are in need of such small-diameter vessel grafts for procedures requiring blood to be routed around blocked arteries. “Our engineered blood vessels have good mechanical properties and we believe they will contract normally when exposed to hormones. They also appear to prevent the accumulation of blood platelets — a component in blood that causes arteries to narrow,” said study author Matthias Nollert, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, in Norman, Okla. in a press release.