Electronic Artificial Blood Vessels Offer Promise

By: Jessica Evans

Categories: AAMI News, Clinical, Medical Device Manufacturing

Tissue engineering is a biomedical field that uses a combination of engineering, materials methods, human cells, and biochemical and physicochemical factors to help restore, maintain, improve, or replace different types of biological tissues. There are three main goals of tissue engineering:

  • Repair cells so they can become functional
  • Assist in transplant procedures and support
  • Serve as growth factors to help support new tissues' formation.

Because of the significant toll that cardiovascular disease has on the world, tissue engineering research has long been focused on creating artificial blood vessels. The goal of much of the research has been to create artificial vessels with enough functionality to be used as implants in long-term blood vessel replacement. 

Tissue-engineered blood vessels (TEBVs) have limitations because they don’t have the functionality to regenerate blood vessel tissue. TVs often cause significant inflammation as well, making it a less than ideal approach. TEBVs also can’t assist in treating cardiovascular disease. 

A research team of Swiss and Chinese scientists developed vessels made from a biodegradable metal-polymer conductor membrane. This membrane mimics human blood vessels and can conduct electricity—opening the way to new treatment options inside the body. 

The new vessels are electronically conductive, so they can address changes in the body and adapt as needed. Even more promising, these new artificial blood vessels can coordinate with other electronic devices in the body and help form new endothelial blood vessel tissue. 

In a demonstration, a cylindrical rod was used to roll up a metal-polymer conductor membrane. This membrane showcased that electrical stimulation helped increase endothelial cell movement during wound healing, which suggests that electrical stimulation can help drive the formation of new blood cells. Eventually, this could lead to artificial vessels playing a role in helping replace damaged vessels. 

The trial tests in the lab are promising, but there’s a long way to go before artificial vessels can be used in humans. The research team published its findings in the journal Matter.