A new study in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology details the use of stem cells to grow blood vessels in laboratory-made tissues.
Scientists with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) explain that, although using engineered tissues to treat various conditions is becoming a run-off-the-mill practice, keeping these tissues properly vascularized is a bit of a hassle.
The discovery that a certain type of stem cell cannot only stimulate, but also guide the growth of blood vessels in engineered tissues has high chances to help sort out this issue.
In their paper, the researchers explain that the stem cells they used in their experiments were collected from human bone marrow. Such stem cells are known to specialists as mesenchymal stem cells, Science News reports.
When placed in the same environment with endothelial cells that line blood vessels, the two types of cells started to work together to form blood vessels.
Specifically, the stem cells altered their shape in such ways that they came to form scaffolds to which the endothelial cells attached themselves. Eventually, the cells ended up forming tubes.
“Without the stem cells, the endothelial cells just sat there,” Dr. Jalees Rehman with the UIC College of Medicine explains.
Interestingly enough, it appears that human bone marrow stem cells are only able to work with endothelial ones and form blood vessels if they expressed a molecule known as SLIT3.
“This means that not all stem cells are created alike in terms of their SLIT3 production and their ability to encourage blood vessel formation.”
“While using a patient's own stem cells for making blood vessels is ideal because it eliminates the problem of immune rejection, it might be a good idea to test a patient's stem cells first to make sure they are good producers of SLIT3. If they aren't, the engineered vessels may not thrive, or even fail to grow,” Dr. Jalees Rehman says.