For the first time, scientists have managed to grow perfect human blood vessels in a laboratory, and it is strikingly similar to the structure and function of real human blood vessels.
The blood vessel organoids is a three-dimensional structure cultivated in the petri dish. Researchers believe that this would benefit the advancement of the study of many vascular diseases such as diabetes.
The ‘Vascular Organoids’
The researchers cultivated the so-called “vascular organoids” using stem cells in the lab. To test it, they transplanted the blood vessel organoids into mice.
The results revealed that the blood vessel developed into a fully-functioning human blood vessel with arteries and capillaries. The researchers stated it resembles real blood vessels to a molecular level. The results also prove that it is possible to cultivate blood vessel organoids not only in a petri dish but also inside other species.
“What is so exciting about our work is that we were successful in making real human blood vessels out of stem cells. Our organoids resemble human capillaries to a great extent, even on a molecular level, and we can now use them to study blood vessel diseases directly on human tissue.”Reiner Wimmer, first author of the study, IMBA
Implications to Medicine
The study will have major implications in the study of vascular diseases. Diabetes, for example, is caused by vascular changes that may result in impairment in blood circulation and tissues in oxygen supply. However, there is not much knowledge about the changes in blood vessels arising from diabetes.
Josef Penninger, senior author of the study and founding director of the Institute for Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) stated that the creation of the organoids is a “game changer” in the study of medicine.
“Every single organ in our body is linked with the circulatory system. This could potentially allow researchers to unravel the causes and treatments for a variety of vascular diseases, from Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, wound healing problems, stroke, cancer and, of course, diabetes.”Josef Penninger, IMBA Founding Director
Patients suffering from diabetes exhibit an abnormal thickening of the basement membrane in their blood vessels. This results in problems in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissues.
To mimic this, Penninger and his colleagues exposed the organoids to a “diabetic” environment in a petri dish. And surprisingly, there was also a “massive expansion” in the basement membrane of the organoids.
The researchers then looked for ways to block thickening of the blood vessel walls. They found out that the current medicines for diabetes have no effect. However, a type of enzyme in the body called γ-secretase is able to prevent the thickening of the basement membrane.
The results revealed a new direction for the development of a new treatment for diabetes. Researchers tried to block the γ-secretase in some animal models and found that it could be helpful in treating diabetes.