Every year more than 500,000 coronary artery bypass surgeries are performed worldwide. While autografting (taking tissue from one part of the body and moving it to another) is the preferred technique, there are limitations: autografts cannot be obtained multiple times from one patient, and they fail when the patient lacks healthy blood vessels. Synthetic polymers are used in cases of weak blood vessels, but not when making small diameter vascular grafts (less than five mm) due to risks of stenosis (abnormal narrowing of a bodily canal or passageway), and thrombosis (a clot of coagulated blood attached at the site of formation in a blood vessel).
To fill the need for small diameter vascular grafts for people with weak blood vessels, this E-Team is developing the Hydrogel Microfiber, a hollow, polymeric cylinder in which living endothelial cells can be encapsulated. Concentric layers can be added to this fiber, each containing its own cell population. Once implanted in the patient, the cells in the fiber grow over time and eventually become fully integrated with the vessel wall.