Health Team

Artificial blood vessel shows promise in Duke tests

Posted June 6, 2013

Lawrence Breakley, 62, has been on kidney dialysis for a few years now.

He's had two synthetic vein grafts in his arms through which the dialysis process cleanses his blood. But both grafts eventually failed.

Duke vascular surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Lawson offered him a new type of vein graft grown with donated human cells. Breakley is the first patient to get one.

“He asked me if I wanted to try it and you know, I feel like just anything to help,” Breakley said.

In the lab of the company Humacyte, human cells are grown on a tubular scaffold to form a vessel.

“In this case, it's de-cellularized, so your body doesn't identify it or reject it,” Lawson said.

In pre-clinical tests, it performed better than synthetic or animal-based implants. The new vessel should speed blood flow and shorten the time of dialysis.

“It lets the patient not have some foreign catheter hanging out, most often in their chest, that puts them really at high risk for the things like infection or potential blood clots that can form in their heart,” Lawson said.

Lawson, who helped develop the technology, said the transplantation is a first step in synthetic body parts.

“It's a building block going forward to doing things like someday being able to grow a kidney or grow a liver or grow a much more complex organ that will be done probably a generation from now,” he said.

Breakley went home the same day of his surgery, and he hopes his experience will help others.

“I think it’s going to work out good, too,” he said.


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