Scientists have announced a breakthrough in medical technology with the ability to grow what they are calling perfect human blood vessels as organoids in a petri dish. An organoid is a 3D structure that is grown from stem cells that mimics an organ and can be used to study aspects of that organ in a petri dish. The scientists say that this breakthrough could be key to advancing research of vascular diseases like diabetes.
Josef Penninger, the senior author of the study, says that being able to grow the blood vessels in a petri dish is a “game changer” since all the organs in our body are linked by the circulatory system. Penninger says that the faux blood vessel breakthrough could allow research into treatments for a variety of vascular diseases from Alzheimer’s disease to wound healing and diabetes, strokes and cancer.
Diabetes is a particularly big area of focus for medical researchers due to the large afflicted population. There are an estimated 420 million people globally with diabetes. Scientists say that many diabetic symptoms are the result of changes in blood vessels that impair blood circulation and tissue oxygen supply.
Despite diabetes being a common disease globally, little is known about the vascular changes that arise from the condition. The vascular organoids that the team has developed are created using stem cells in the lab. Researchers transplanted the blood vessel organoids into mice and found that the creations were perfectly functional.
The team created arteries and capillaries that are both functional. In experiments, they were able to expose the blood vessels they created to a “diabetic” environment in a petri dish and witness the “massive expansion” of the basement membrane. This is a key problem in diabetic people that impairs tissue oxygenation and can lead to bigger issues like kidney failure.