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Scientists Grow Blood Vessels Using Skin Cells 177

Posted by samzenpus
from the younger-looking-veins dept.
rubberbando writes "The new york times is running a story about how scientists have discovered a way to grow new blood vessels using skin cells. Since the blood vessels are grown using the patient's own skin cells, there isn't any chance for rejection. This looks to be quite a boon for people who have several damaged blood vessels from diseases such as diabetes. Perhaps one day they will be able to apply this technology/technique to creating other parts of the body and rid us of the whole stem cell controversy. Only time will tell."
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Scientists Grow Blood Vessels Using Skin Cells

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  • Blood Vessels Grown From Skin
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Published: November 16, 2005

    DALLAS, Nov. 15 (AP) - Two kidney dialysis patients from Argentina have received the world's first blood vessels grown in a laboratory dish from snippets of their own skin, a technique that doctors hope will someday offer a new source of arteries and veins for diabetics and other patients.

    Scientists from Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc., a small biotechnology company in Novato, Calif., reported the tissue-engineering advance on
  • by TwentyLeaguesUnderLa (900322) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:32PM (#14049528)
    I doubt that it'll rid us of the controversy... because by the time that becomes possible, cloning or genetic modification of some other sort will also have also become possible, and that'll just pick up where the stem cell controversy left off, probably with many of the same arguments on both sides.
    • "Since the blood vessels are grown using the patient's own skin cells, there isn't any chance for rejection." Unless the patient has an objection to the use of his own skin cells it's not a problem.
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:39PM (#14049563)
    We can't get rid of something that's projected onto the situation by people who are nervous/scared about what the bio-sciences say about their world view. The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics. That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

    Growing new body parts out of other body parts will still freak out a certain number of people, no matter what. If it's not the stem cell faux-controversy, it will be the "only rich people can afford this treatment, so it's evil" crowd or their various other counterparts.
    • The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics.

      I disagree.

      The worry many people have about using stem cells is that if this method skyrockets, there will be a higher demand for stem cells, which at the moment at least would necessitate a large commercial market for dead babies.

      • by MichaelPenne (605299) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:06AM (#14049687) Homepage
        They come from blastocysts.

        Which there are plenty of slowly expiring in vats of frozen nitrogen at fertility clinics around the world.

        "if this thing takes off", those blastocysts will be saving people's lives instead of slowly rotting away.

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:44AM (#14049867) Homepage Journal
          Hate to break it to you, but those people consider your blastocyst to be a living breathing baby. They like popping up pictures of 7-9 month term fetuses/babies on billboards.

          Most of them don't mind harvesting 'stem cells' from any source that still results in a born baby (umbilical cords, for example).

          Me, I don't care that much, but I can understand their views a bit better than most.
          • They come from blastocysts.

            Which there are plenty of slowly expiring in vats of frozen nitrogen at fertility clinics around the world.

            Hate to break it to you, but those people consider your blastocyst to be a living breathing baby. [...] Most of them don't mind harvesting 'stem cells' from any source that still results in a born baby (umbilical cords, for example).

            Okay, I'm not saying you missed the point of the GP post -- I understand that you're just speaking for "those people". So would you mind answe

            • Okay, I'm not saying you missed the point of the GP post -- I understand that you're just speaking for "those people". So would you mind answering one more argument on behalf of "them"? It's something that I've never heard an embryonic-stem-cell opponent answer, and I'm dying to hear what "they" would say. Here it is (worded in second person):

              Answer, on behalf of "those people", as best as I can manage, about why they can't use the extra embryoes genereated during In Vitro Fertilization(IVF):

              But, if it's no
      • "The worry many people have about using stem cells is that if this method skyrockets, there will be a higher demand for stem cells, which at the moment at least would necessitate a large commercial market for dead babies."

        Any VC's out there who would like to get in on the opportunity of a lifetime? I'd love to show you my business plans, just sign this NDA and we can begin discussing your investment in my plan to leverage my biotech knowledge to realize substantial gains by cornering the market on dead
    • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:48PM (#14049605) Journal
      The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics. That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

      I can't speak for everyone, but I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research, and none whatsoever with this. Medical science can do wonderful things for people (I look forward to when they sythesize blood and eliminate shortages); I just don't want other people to be trampled on in the process.

      As for taking the mystery out of things, I think it's just the opposite. The more you understand the universe, the more wonderful it seems. I don't see how knowing the mechanics of cells creates an argument for atheism, as you seem to imply.
      • The more you understand the universe, the more wonderful it seems.

        We can definitely agree on that.

        I don't see how knowing the mechanics of cells creates an argument for atheism, as you seem to imply.

        Woops! On that we can definitely disagree.

        I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research, and none whatsoever with this.

        I'm glad you make the general distinction between the discussed procedure and other methods. But I hope you can also make the distinction between a collection of divi
        • I'm glad you make the general distinction between the discussed procedure and other methods. But I hope you can also make the distinction between a collection of dividing cells in a dish and a human being. I'll stop here, because we might as well just play a recording.

          Out of curiosity... If you're an athiest, and thus do not believe in a soul. What are you but for a collection of dividing cells? Is the only difference between you and a blastocycst the dish?
      • I can't speak for everyone, but I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research

        Don't most stem cells used for research come from cord blood that would normally be discarded after birth anyway?
        • A lot of it does, but not all. And more would come from fetuses if there were not currently a stigma on that particular source of stem cells.
      • I can't speak for everyone, but I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research, and none whatsoever with this.

        Fetuses, eh? So you don't have any problems with embryonic stem cell research? Or have you not educated yourself on this matter before reaching your hasty conclusion?

        I just don't want other people to be trampled on in the process.

        This is the problem. ALL medical technology infringes on religion in some way. Some believe that stem cells have magical powers that shouldn't be mes
        • Or have you not educated yourself on this matter before reaching your hasty conclusion?

          Yes, I used the wrong term. My mistake.

          Some believe that sickness is caused by evil spirits, and so doctors should be replaced with exorcists. Do you propose we make exceptions for every religious objection, just to make sure that these people aren't "trampled on" in some real or imaginary way?

          I'm not trying to start a debate about abortion here - those are usually flamewars, and we're pretty far offtopic now.
          • These are your words: "I just don't want other people to be trampled on in the process."

            I interpreted "other people" as people who oppose stem cell research, and I supposed that you were taking the position that we shouldn't do any research without the permission of everyone. Hence my reference to the admittedly extreme instances of opposition to medical science.

            What I was trying to get at with my post was related to the topic of the thread. New techniques will not end the controversies of medical sci
            • I doubt that anyone else is reading this anymore, but I know you'll see that I replied to you.

              Based on your reply, I now suspect that "other people" most likely refers to the embryos in which stem cells originate. I apologize for responding to the wrong argument, but invite you to consider that many people who oppose embryonic stem cell research have greater qualms than the destruction of embryos.

              Yes, that's who I was referring to; sorry if that was unclear. I'm glad we have come to a better understa
    • This hasn't been projected to those who are nervous nor scared. Those types of people have been spoon fed crapaganda about stem cell by what you labeled "rich people". Its those same rich people often in positions of power that have the right to shoot it down. I'm sure if they took a different stance, they could get those nervous and scared people on board with the program but, you will rarely see that happen as most of the powers that be tend to sway the way of what's popular at the moment. "Oh you will vo
      • It's not totally artificial like that. John G. Bloke has to play off a latent fear that is already present in the masses. No matter how much Bloke distorts the truth, [deviant]phobia, xenophobic us and them, the rules don't apply to us because we're on a mission, and 'THINK OF THE CHILDREN' are the 4 horses of the groupthink.

        They are general enough that you can tailor the specifics to any sizable population group.

    • by Grym (725290) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:14AM (#14049729)

      The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics.

      Oh please... The debate over Stem cells has nothing to do with scientific understanding of cellular mechanics. If that were the case, Watson and Crick would have been burned at the stake decades ago. No other research involving cellular mechanics has reached this level of public scrutiny. I've never heard anyone debate the ethics of cell-surface recognition proteins or origins of the mitochondria in cells. Let's be honest. The whole stem-cell debate is merely a veiled front for the larger fight over abortion. (I use the word fight because "debate" hardly fits.)

      Here's how it happened:

      1. The most interesting and scientifically-valuable stem cells are found in developing embryos.
      2. Studying these cells requires the destruction of the embryo.
      3. This raises the ugly question: if destroying an embryo for research is okay, what makes an abortion any different?
      4. Fight ensues. Everybody all the sudden becomes an expert on cellular biology.

      That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

      Bullshit. "Social instiutions that rely on mystical explanations"? Do you mean "religions"? Why don't you just say it? ...Religions... See how easy that was?

      Regardless, science doesn't debunk the larger, more important claims of religion. It can't. Learning about cellular theory doesn't debunk the existence of God. Learning physics doesn't mean that God couldn't temporarily violate the laws of physics at a whim--you know, being omnipotent and all.

      Religion and God are meta-physical concepts, while science is the study of the physical world. The two aren't mutually exclusive ideas. A scientist can just as easily believe in a religion as an atheist in science.

      -Grym

      • Let's be honest. The whole stem-cell debate is merely a veiled front for the larger fight over abortion.

        I would contend that the more we know (and can demonstrate) about what's cooking, and when, in the development of a zygote, blastocyst, etc., the more we deflate some of the fuss about the abortion issue in the first place. It's important, I think, to make sure that those who assign humanity to, say, 16 cells (or to a dividing line of them derived therefrom) really have to come out and admit that it's
      • Religion and God are meta-physical concepts, while science is the study of the physical world.
        ... as long as you aren't in Kansas.
      • ... and the whole fight over abortion is in any case just a front for the fight over sexual morality (at least on the "anti" side).
      • Note that even without the fight over abortion there still is a stem cell controversy - in Germany we can't do any stem cell research, even though abortions are perfectly acceptable. Over here the debate indeed is about "oh noes, we can't tell if it's human".
      • Religion and God are meta-physical concepts, while science is the study of the physical world. The two aren't mutually exclusive ideas. A scientist can just as easily believe in a religion as an atheist in science.

        But can a contemporary evangelical Christian respect science as easily as an agnostic? Can someone who places an enormous value on the literal veracity of various myths really accept that some of those myths are false and the rest are untestable? The answer is being played out across the count
    • "it will be the 'only rich people can afford this treatment, so it's evil' crowd or their various other counterparts." I would argue that only rich people can afford current medicine.

      Seriously though, it's all about the first step. Perhaps at first this will only be available to rich people. Like all good technology it will eventually become more common and less expensive.
    • Anesthesia for women during childbirth was controversial. Organ transplantation was controversial. IVF was far more controversial when it was first developed than it is today. Today's affront against God is tomorrow's bygone advance in science. Reason wins in the long run because it works.
      • Torturing humans for scientific research was controversial. Testing products on people was controversial. Using jews to test crash helmets was controversial. Yesterdays scientific advancement is todays human rights violatoin. Morality wins in the long run because it's right.

        Learn to see both sides you must...
        • There's a pretty obvious difference between objecting to things which actually harm people, and objecting to things which help people for reasons unrelated to the well-being of people. I would be so bold as to say that an misanthropic system of morality is objectively wrong, since the purpose of morality is to guide our decisions in a beneficial way.
          • That's an aweful lot of handwaving for such a short post. Near as I can tell you're saying "yes but those were wrong, *this* is right though!"

            There's a pretty obvious difference between objecting to things which actually harm people, and objecting to things which help people for reasons unrelated to the well-being of people.

            Aye, but can you be so sure that "harm people" is the same for all parties involved? You know, not everybody who disagrees with stem-cell research and/or abortion does so out of b
  • hmm.. interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:42PM (#14049571) Homepage Journal
    there are surgeons who specialize (at least partly) in bloodless surgeries, as some folks have religious beliefs that deny them blood donated from others...

    wonder how this tech gets interpreted by the religious leaders... permissible or no....

    • Jehova's Witnesses view blood as sacred. They will not allow it to be used in medicine. It doesn't matter whose blood it is. It isn't the fact that it's someone else's blood, it's the fact that it's blood. (Just the same, they don't donate blood.)

      I don't know if this would be permissible or not. I understand what's been done here is that blood vessels have been created. Blood vessels aren't blood, so it might be permissible. But, I'm not a Jehova's Witness, and I haven't read the article, so this is just hy
    • IANAJW (I am not a Jehovah's Witness), but I suspect that they would be OK with it. My understanding of their belief is that blood contains part of a person's soul and that by accepting blood (or blood products) from another person, it makes your blood a combination of the 2 people. Then on judgement day it would be impossible to sort out who the righteous person is/was. At least that was how someone explained it to me once. My apologies to any Witnesses out there if I've mangled their beliefs and I'd also
  • by backslashdot (95548) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:47PM (#14049590)
    Maybe we can grow steak this way too .. in large vats. Get rid of the animal rights issues that way.

    Yumm.
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      Get rid of the animal rights issues that way.

      As long as people like PETA think that owning a pet is evil, that issue won't go away. But at least it's nice to know that nobody at PETA will ever swat an innocent mosquito while it's sucking the blood out of their foreheads.

      I don't think that any tissue science development - no matter how good a fake-steak it produces - will change the nature of political debate about domesticated animals. And it probably won't come close to the taste of a plate of fresh,
    • Re:Meat factories (Score:2, Informative)

      by Loc_Dawg (862613)
      I'm a vegetarian, but I would more likely go back to real meat before eating this stuff [umd.edu].
    • Re:Meat factories (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:26AM (#14049786) Homepage Journal
      Personally I would love it if protein synthesis became plausible in my lifetime. First you'd sell these factories to third world countries where defending a corporate asset is a lot easier than defending farmland. Instantly curing world hunger. Then you'd see 100% synthesised meat alternatives appearing in vegetarian food outlets - there's already some of this, Quorn [quorn.co.uk] being the most famous, but their manufacturing methods are too expensive to have an effect on the mainstream. Then we'll see synthesised meat appearing in shopping centre refrigeration cabinets. When you have the choice between $21.99/kg steak vs $1.99/kg synthesised meat you'll at least give it a go. From there, the future is our playground. We can shut down factory farms. We can reclaim land for foresting. We can build self sufficient space habitates without needing to launch millions of tonnes of topsoil for crops.
      • You should check out Arthur C. Clarke's "The Food of the Gods". Very interesting story, and quite fun.

        And as for people talking about Soylant Green? Well, they should check it out as well *grins*
      • Re:Meat factories (Score:4, Insightful)

        by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:52AM (#14051223) Homepage Journal
        Except for the fact that food production has been high enough to "cure world hunger" for decades. It is NOT a production problem, but a distribution problem (aka a problem of poor people not being able to pay for the food).

        That problem will increase not decrease with what you are suggesting, as it will remove the livelyhood of millions of farmers in the third world that currently depend on being able to compete with larger scale farming or industrial food manufacture.

        Want to solve world hunger in one "easy" step?

        Drop agricultural subsidies in all developed countries and spend the money on providing farming tools and infrastructure in the developing countries instead, while gradually removing all trade barriers on exports from third world countries without forcing them to go first.

        Yes, you'd have a rebellion of farmers on your hand, pissed off that they're suddenly having to deal with actual competition instead of being sheltered in every way possible. And yes, a lot of them would face going bankrupt. And yes, food prices would rise at least temporarily...

        Which is why little ends up actually being done to stop world hunger - whichever way you look at it, it requires the third world to have more control over their own food supply, and the only way that will happen is to make it more profitable to farm there so that local farmers can afford to take precautions against droughts etc. (including building up grain caches etc.) - the volatility of food local food production is the main cause of hunger and famines today.

        All of this WILL force farmers in the developed countries to have to make significant adjustments, and at the moment they're simply too powerful for any politicians to dare push that kind of agenda very hard.

        • It is NOT a production problem, but a distribution problem.

          Any distribution problem can be solved by producing a product closer to the consumer. That is, if you don't have the issue of labour costs, which you don't, in a fully automated factory. The point is, curing world hunger is not something you can set out to do. It has to be a side effect of competing in local markets. If you can't make synthetic food for cheaper than traditional farming then it's nothing more than a boondoggle.
      • I think it would be hard to call Quorn a 'synthesized meat'. It's actually made from fungus. It would be like calling a soy burger 'synthesized meat'.
    • Maybe we can grow steak this way too .. in large vats.

      If you're looking for other meat substitutes, I have this product you might be interested in: It's called Soylent Green [imdb.com]. Yeah, the marketing department needs to work on a better name, but hey, it contains everything a growing body needs. ;)
  • The summary refers to conditions where vessels have been severely compromised, but I wonder if it can go even further. Vascular deterioration, and its role in overall CV ill-health is both part and parcel of modern America, and also contributes to the severity of other conditions. Having some way of replacing damaged vessels that is easier than current methods could find applications across the board.

    The article doesn't give much detail, but I would think that generation of blood vessels that won't be rej

    • The problem is that the vessels (and various CT) are grown ex utero and not on the capillary scale. They are no easier to transplant than donated or synthetic vessels... the only difference is the risk of rejection being close to zero.

      Also, not eating junk won't help you if you're on dialysis... you're still getting poked with a needle at least weekly, which is the cause of the degradation.
  • Athletes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quark101 (865412) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:00AM (#14049661)
    With athletes always looking for a competitive edge, what could this kind of technology do to professional sports? It seems to me, if you can increase the blood flow to your vital muscles (sport dependent), then you would gain an enormous advantage over your opponents.

    Will this be the next big sports controversy? And what could be done about it, if it doesn't use drugs, and is grown from the patient itself?
    • I think that's unlikely. Increased blood flow to improve athletic performance would be needed at a capillary (very small arteries) level and these are MUCH larger diameter arteries. The most likely uses are for dialysis fistulas and as conduits for bypassing diseased arteries (e.g., femoral-popliteal arterial bypass, coronary artery bypass graft).
  • by macklin01 (760841) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:18AM (#14049754) Homepage

    This has been done before--by cancer.

    Just the other day in my cancer seminar (biomedical engineering department at UC Irvine), we were discussing angiogenesis, which ordinarily occurs when tumors have an imbalance between angiogenic growth factors and inhibitors. (Usually arises when tumors become too large to receive their nutrients soley from diffusion through the tissues.) The resulting gradient in these chemical signals recruits endotheial cells (the cells that ordinarily form the walls of blood vessels) to move chemotactically towards the tumor, align themselves, and form a new blood vessel to supply nutrients to the previously hypoxic tumor.

    But in some tumors, the tumor cells themselves align and form blood vessels, with no need for endotheial cells. Much like forming blood vessels from skin cells.

    The human body is truly an amazing machine. The fascinating part about cancer is that you get to see many of the mechanisms at play, and what happens when they're out of balance. -- Paul

    • by macklin01 (760841) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @03:37AM (#14050360) Homepage

      For the AC, here are some definitions:

      angiogenesis: angio = blood vessels, genesis = creation, so angiogenesis is the creation of new blood vessels. adjective form: angiogenic

      angiogenic growth factor: a chemical substance / signal that promotes angiogenesis

      angiogenic inhibitor: a chemical substance / signal that inhibits angiogensis

      gradient: in this context, a variation with a pronounced direction of increase

      chemotaxis: chemo = chemicals, taxis = motion or moving, so chemotaxis is the (active) motion of something in response to chemoicals. usually involves a cell or organism moving from areas of a high chemical concentration to an area of low chemical concentration, or vice versa. adverb form: chemotactically

      hypoxic: hypo = too little, oxic = oxygen, so hypoxic means being in a condition of having too little oxygen

      Given the generally science-educated readership, I didn't give it earlier, although I perhaps should have. I used the terms because they have specific meanings, and the interesting aspect (one of balance) wouldn't have been as well conveyed without them. I'll grant that I could have done a better job writing my post, but it's only slashdot. ;-)

      The thing that's interesting about all these chemical signals is that it's the precise balance of them that leads to the proper formation or blood vessels when called for. When the chemicals are out of balance, strange things happen, like blood vessels growing towards tumors. Another interesting aspect is that the balance of promoters and inhibitors for tumors is different than in the usual formation of blood vessels. This inbalance actually causes the blood vessels to be "leaky" and less rigid. The implications of this are too numerous to go into here, but chemotherapy is one thing that is (adversely) affected.

      These balance issues are present in almost all aspects of how the body regulates itself. Cells are replete with redundant signaling pathways (different chains of events that can trigger a cell activity). Sometimes, multiple, contradictory pathways will be active at the same time, and the balance or imbalance will determine the net result. In another example, the balance and distribution of chemicals, hormones, nutrients determines whether a growing tooth becomes a molar or an incisor. (There was a Scientific American article on this a few months ago, in the context of growing tissues and organs from stem cells.) Again, the issue of balance. Fascinating stuff! :) -- Paul

  • Amazing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Amazing. I've been advocating slashdot as a source of actual information for at least 8 years; I've come close to first post a few times. This time I thought I'd done it, and with what a post, the death notice of my sister, a brilliant young researcher in brain chemistry, one who treated Montel Williams. What a let down to read stupid jokes. Can't we all over this planet raise the level of discourse? My last words to her were that I wouuld not give the benefit of my brain to them. I am a physicist.
  • So, how long until we're growing whole organs?

    I have a somewhat deficient heart... the doctors tell me that we'll keep an eye on it for now, but I'll probably need some surgery in a couple of decades.

    I can't get too upset about this - at the pace that medical technology is progressing. They'll probably be able to grow me a new heart by the time I need one. As long as I can afford it, that is.

  • I'm sorry to disappoint a lot of diabetics. But the major problem in diabetes is the micro vascular damage. One cannot grow and transplant 10.000 micro vessels in a foot that is about to fall of.

    The major gain is in the larger vessels, where no venous graft is available/possible. Now one needs a Gore-Tex graft, but they fail (close) too often too soon.

    It will be a long time before i trust this technique to replace my future abdominal aneurysm. The forces there are the true challenge.
  • So how long is it before we can grow entire humans? I mean a blood vessel is a relatively simple thing (compared to, say, a brain), but if you can grow a blood vessel, why not an entire human eventually?

    The advance of science never ceases to amaze me.
  • If you think a medical alternative to stemcells that still produces "miracle cures" will not be controversial, you don't understand the "controversy", or the contras who oppose stemcell research. Those contras are the core of the Republican marriage made in hell: fundamentalists and corporations. The corporations are the pharmacos, which anticipate profits from drugs which assist the stemcell research and therapies. But stemcell patients already show a faster, more complete recovery than from traditional su

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