The American Heart Association Recognizes Research Performed at SJTRI in Midtown Atlanta

Major Regenerative Medical Discovery Called Groundbreaking

Atlanta, GA—(June 27, 2011) Today the American Heart Association’s Emerging Science Series webinar showcased groundbreaking research where lab-grown skin cells taken from a single, human donor were turned into human blood vessels and successfully implanted into patients.  The California-based company performed its research and testing for this initiative in midtown Atlanta at Saint Joseph’s Translational Research Institute (SJTRI).

While more testing is needed, such “off-the-shelf” blood vessels could soon be used to improve the process and affordability of kidney dialysis.  “Our approach could allow hundreds of thousands of patients to be treated from one master cell line,” said study lead author Todd N. McAllister, Ph.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc., of Novato, California and employee of Saint Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta.  The grafts also have the potential to be used in lower limb bypass to route blood around diseased arteries, to repair congenital heart defects in pediatric patients and to fix damaged arteries in soldiers, who might otherwise lose a limb, said McAllister.

The tissue-engineered blood vessels, produced from sheets of cultured skin cells rolled around temporary support structures, were used to create access shunts between arteries and veins in the arm for kidney dialysis in three patients. These shunts, which connect an artery to a vein, provide access to the blood for dialysis. The engineered vessels were about a foot long with a diameter of 4.8 millimeters.

At follow-up exams up to eight months after implantation, none of the patients had developed an immune reaction to the implants, and the vessels withstood the high pressure and frequent needle punctures required for dialysis. Shunts created from patients’ own vessels or synthetic materials are notoriously prone to failure.

Investigators previously showed that using vessels individually created from a patient’s own skin cells reduced the rate of shunt complications 2.4-fold over a 3-year period. The availability of off-the-shelf vessels could avoid the expense and months-long process involved in creating custom vessels for each patient, making the technique feasible for widespread use.

Besides addressing a costly and vexing problem in kidney dialysis, off-the-shelf blood vessels might someday be used instead of harvesting patients’ own vessels for bypass surgery. A larger, randomized trial of the grafts is under way for kidney dialysis, and human trials have been initiated to assess the safety and effectiveness of these grafts for lower-limb bypass.

Meet Todd McAllister, Ph.D., and see inside Cytograft headquarters as well as Saint Joseph’s where much of the research was performed by clicking here.

For more information on the patients receiving lab-grown donor cell blood vessels go to The American Heart Association’s Newsroom

Editor’s Note:  Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1880, Saint Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta is now a 410-bed, acute-care hospital recognized as one of the leading specialty-referral hospitals in the Southeast.  Saint Joseph’s is the region’s premier provider of cardiac, vascular oncology and orthopaedic services and home to the most comprehensive minimally invasive robotic surgery program in the world.   Saint Joseph’s is one of the 50 top hospitals and one of the few hospitals in the world to receive Magnet Recognition for Nursing Excellence.  Saint Joseph’s medical staff is comprised of over 750 physicians.  Saint Joseph’s Health System is based in Atlanta and has several subsidiaries including indigent care services, employed physician group, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Greensboro, GA, and research facilities.  Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Saint Joseph’s is a member of Catholic Health East.  For more information, please visit www.saintjosephsatlanta.org.

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