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You are here: MEDICA Portal. Part VIII: Regenerative Medicine. Materials.

Of Potency and New Organs (Part 3)

Of Potency and New Organs (Part 3)

Part 3: One Has to Tame the Blood

Also at the Leibniz Research Laboratories for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs (LEBAO) at Hanover Medical School research focuses on regenerative medicine. Stem cell research is being accompanied by methods concerned with tissue engineering in order to develop implants for the repair or replacement of damaged organs. Cells are being applied to a biological scaffold, a matrix structure, in order to culture a substitute for diseased tissue such as heart valves or vessels.

Christian Hess is a biologist at LEBAO and could lend a helping hand to millions of people suffering from lung diseases in Germany by working on the development of a bio-artificial lung. He and colleagues try to create an implantable bio-hybrid lung substitution system with the help of stem cells and biocompatible plastics - hoping for a system being able to take over lung function completely.

We copy from nature

The basis for the design is a ventilation system that can already supports the lung – a simple filtering apparatus that channels a patient's blood outside its body. A special membrane that is able to exchange gases is the point where carbon dioxide is extracted from the blood and oxygen in turn is delivered to it before the lifeblood returns into the body. „However, since the membrane is made up of plastics, the system can only be used for 30 days in a row", Hess says. The risk of developing a blood clot at the plastics-blood interface gets too high after this time period. Therefore, Hess took a close look at nature and then tried to simulate the conditions prevailing on the inner linings of a blood vessel – surroundings where clotting does not take place.

That is why the researchers are trying to create an environment for endothelial cells - cells normally lining the inner parts of blood vessels - to settle on the gas exchange membrane. These cells are being cultured from progenitor cells from cord blood or peripheral blood. „Our results so far make us look in the future positively“, Hess says. „The material is well suited, cells do settle on it on a small scale.“ Even though the whole investigation is still at its very beginnings it is theoretically feasible to think of a device that one day will support lung function permanently.

Wiebke Heiß

- Part 1: Of Potency and New Organs
- Part 2: Potential in the Testis
- Part 3: One Has to Tame the Blood


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