SUITA, Osaka Prefecture--Scientists said Nov. 21 that they have modified ostrich carotid arteries that can eventually be developed for use in human patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery.
Researchers at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center Research Institute said the long arteries found in the necks of the birds will one day be implanted in heart surgery patients instead of using patients' own vessels, as in conventional surgeries.
The modified ostrich vessels are about 2 millimeters in diameter and about 30 centimeters long. The researchers said it is the first time such a long and thin vascular graft with a small inside diameter has been developed.
When thin blood vessels are replaced with thicker ones, blood flow slows and the vessels become vulnerable to clotting.
Atsushi Mahara and other researchers at the institute’s biomedical engineering department had been studying the possibility of using the blood vessels of sharks and conducted experiments on laboratory rats.
But when they applied an ostrich carotid artery this spring, its thinness and length were a perfect fit, the researchers said.
The researchers used high pressure to remove the interior surface endothelial cells and other properties from the ostrich vessel to avoid host rejection after implantation. They also treated the ostrich artery with a special procedure to prevent blood clotting.
The scientists then implanted the modified bird arteries into four pigs, and the vessels did not clot, they said.
“We hope we can apply the vessel to humans within the next three years,” said Tetsuji Yamaoka, department director.
The researchers also said the successful development of such a long blood artery could dramatically reduce foot amputations of patients with diabetes.
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