Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, account for nearly 17.9 million deaths annually – that’s about 31% of deaths worldwide. These CVDs, as they are known, are a class of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels.
Scientists have now found a way to grow perfect human blood vessels in petri dishes, new technology that could greatly aid in the prevention of these diseases. The study, headed by Josef Penninger of the University of British Columbia, discusses a method by which blood vessels can be grown in a Petri dish. These artificial vessels are called organoids, or a collection of stem cells that grow into a tissue that mimics human organs.
The study’s findings also have the potential to help researchers better understand how CVDs progress; the team intends to use these findings towards the prevention of degenerative changes to human blood vessels.
“Being able to build human blood vessels as organoids from stem cells is a game changer,” said Penninger. “Every single organ in our body is linked with the circulatory system. This could potentially allow researchers to unravel the causes and treatments for a variety of vascular diseases, from Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, wound healing problems, stroke, cancer and, of course, diabetes.”
These Petri dish organoids do not only appear as replicants of actual human blood vessels, they are also able to function as a human blood vessel would once transplanted. When the researchers transplanted the organoids into mice, they found they developed into functional blood vessels. This demonstrates how tissues grown artificially can also have a practical use inside of organisms.
“What is so exciting about our work is that we were successful in making real human blood vessels out of stem cells,” stated Reiner Wimmer, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the study’s first author. “Our organoids resemble human capillaries to a great extent, even on a molecular level, and we can now use them to study blood vessel diseases directly on human tissue.
The study and its findings are revolutionary in scope – this could be greatly influential in discovering causes of cardiovascular diseases, as well as finding treatments.