Durham company grows human blood vessels, sends them to wounded Ukraine soldiers
A Durham company is saving lives in Ukraine in an unusual way.
They're producing blood vessels - in a lab - that are helping trauma patients in war zone hospitals.
From the outside, the Humacyte building blends right in at Research Triangle Park. Inside, however, what they're doing is unlike anything else you'll find in the world.
"Humacyte's tissue engineering platform is really revolutionary," said Laura Niklason, the company's CEO.
Her team of 170 employees is growing human blood vessels. They're used in severe trauma cases like industrial accidents, gunshot wounds and the war in Ukraine.
"After the Russians invaded in Ukraine last year, Humacyte began getting requests from surgeons in Ukraine asking if they could have access to the HAV to treat their wounded war fighters," she said.
Stepping inside the production suite involves a roughly 30-minute process of sterilizing, changing all of your clothes and removing makeup.
Inside is where the blood vessels are grown. That whole process takes about three months.
"Our starting material at Humacyte are human cells," said Niklason. "They're not plastic, they're not synthetic, they're not animal tissues. These are human proteins and human tissues."
Niklason says she started the company 18 years ago after working as an ICU doctor and seeing the need for it firsthand.
Typically, doctors have to take veins from elsewhere in a patient's body, which is not easy. Niklason hopes one day their product will be available in hospitals everywhere.
"So if a surgeon has something they can pull off the shelf and use as a new human tissue to repair a blood vessel, that could be a game changer," she said.
The technology is still in clinical trials and has been for roughly a decade. Nikalson says her company is at a key point - planning to seek FDA approval later this year.