Jan. 14, 2004 For many people, arteriosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of the walls of blood vessels, is a serious condition that, if not treated, can lead to massive heart attacks and strokes. Presently, surgical options, which include either vessel transplantation from the patient’s leg to the diseased vessels or implants from synthetic, cadaverous or animal tissue, are susceptible to weaknesses, infection and rejection. A researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia is working with Cytograft Tissue Engineering to create blood vessels directly from the patient’s tissue.
The process involves removing a stamp-sized section of tissue from the patient’s arm. The cells from the tissue are grown and expanded into a sheet of cells in culture, and then rolled into the vessel. Since these biologically engineered vessels are made on an individual basis, monitoring their growth is crucial. Homogeneity, meaning structural similarity, and adequate thickness must be ensured, and there can be no weaknesses or deformities. A machine developed by Mark Haidekker, assistant professor of biological engineering, solves those potential problems for a fraction of the cost.
The machine, which involves a technique called optical transillumination tomography, examines the tissue using a laser beam and generates a 3D image of the tissue that can be analyzed on a computer. This allows Haidekker to test and examine the tissue in a non-invasive way for thickness, inhomogenity, density and possible defects.
Haidekker, who has been working on the machine for almost a year, says most current ways to examine tissue are not very effective and are too expensive to create. While an MRI machine costs $1.8 million to build, his device can perform the examinations for only $15,000 in material costs.
“This is a quality control device that will save lives,” Haidekker said. “This machine increases the success rate of the tissue-engineered blood vessels by picking out the rare, but crucial, vessels that may cause problems.”
Haidekker continues to make improvements on his device. Currently, he is working on creating the tissue image at a quicker rate. The process currently takes a few hours to complete, but Haidekker is acquiring the technology to improve the rate to only a few minutes.
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