Tissue engineered small-diameter vascular grafts.
Arterial occlusive disease remains the leading cause of death in western countries and often requires vascular reconstructive surgery. The limited supply of suitable small-diameter vascular grafts has led to the development of tissue engineered blood vessel substitutes. Many different approaches have been examined, including natural scaffolds containing one or more ECM proteins and degradable polymeric scaffolds. For optimal graft development, many efforts have modified the culture environment to enhance ECM synthesis and organization using bioreactors under physiologic conditions and biochemical supplements. In the past couple of decades, a great deal of progress on TEVGs has been made. Many challenges remain and are being addressed, particularly with regard to the prevention of thrombosis and the improvement of graft mechanical properties. To develop a patent TEVG that grossly resembles native tissue, required culture times in most studies exceed 8 weeks. Even with further advances in the field, TEVGs will likely not be used in emergency situations because of the time necessary to allow for cell expansion, ECM production and organization, and attainment of desired mechanical strength. Furthermore, TEVGs will probably require the use of autologous tissue to prevent an immunogenic response, unless advances in immune acceptance render allogenic and xenogenic tissue use feasible. TEVGs have not yet been subjected to clinical trials, which will determine the efficacy of such grafts in the long term. Finally, off-the-shelf availability and cost will become the biggest hurdles in the development of a feasible TEVG product. Although many obstacles exist in the effort to develop a small-diameter TEVG, the potential benefits of such an achievement are exciting. In the near future, a nonthrombogenic TEVG with sufficient mechanical strength may be developed for clinical trials. Such a graft will have the minimum characteristics of biological tissue necessary to remain patent over a period comparable to current vein graft therapies. As science and technology advance, TEVGs may evolve into complex blood vessel substitutes. TEVGs may become living grafts, capable of growing, remodeling, and responding to mechanical and biochemical stimuli in the surrounding environment. These blood vessel substitutes will closely resemble native vessels in almost every way, including structure, composition, mechanical properties, and function. They will possess vasoactive properties and be able to dilate and constrict in response to stimuli. Close mimicry of native blood vessels may aid in the engineering of other tissues dependent upon vasculature to sustain function. With further understanding of the factors involved in cardiovascular development and function combined with the foundation of knowledge already in place, the development of TEVGs should one day lead to improved quality of life for those with vascular disease and other life-threatening conditions.
Schmedlen, RH; Elbjeirami, WM; Gobin, AS; West, JL
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