Techshot has invented a process for manufacturing large human blood vessels using a patient’s own stem cells. Developed with $1.15 million in funding from two consecutive R&D contracts from the Pentagon’s Defense Health Program, the method produces vessels that are expected to initially benefit soldiers with severe injuries to their extremities. Soon after, they should to be available to anyone who, through trauma or disease, needs replacement arteries and/or veins.
“The widespread use of high explosives in current nontraditional battlefields has led to significant increase in extremity injuries,” said Techshot Chief Scientist Eugene D. Boland, Ph.D. “In 2011, it was reported that sixty seven percent of wounds were to the limbs, with severe soft-tissue, bone and vascular injuries. And because most suffered multiple injuries, autologous, or “spare” vessels harvested from the patient’s own uninjured arm or leg, were unavailable which led to high amputation rates.”
Making strong implantable vascular grafts suitable for stitching, and sustaining potentially high arterial blood pressures, begins with a process called electrospinning. An electric field is applied to a thin liquid stream of natural and synthetic polymers, which are similar to materials used for biodegradable sutures. Like a spider spinning a web, the stream instantly solidifies into a very fine filament while being woven around a rotating mandrel, creating a tubular scaffold.
After stem cells collected from the patient’s own fat are printed on the tube, the finished graft is ready to be implanted. Upon complete healing in six to nine months, the polymer tube will have been absorbed by the body, leaving a natural blood vessel.
“Whether or not a patient has a spare vessel available should not be the deciding factor in whether they lose their injured limb or keep it,” said Boland. “Until now, we did not have a viable alternative. If our manufactured vessel proves as successful in the clinic as it has been demonstrated in early preclinical models, we will give surgeons a radical new resource in the treatment of vascular injury and disease.”
Pre-clinical trials testing the efficacy of the Techshot grafts will begin late this year, with clinical trials in human patients expected to begin in 2017.
About the Defense Health Program
The Department of Defense’s Defense Health Program works to advance the state of medical science in areas of the most pressing need to wounded warriors and their families. It fosters strategic partnerships with companies such as Techshot to expedite the implementation of best practices for medical research, R&D and acquisition programs across the continuum of care.
About Eugene D. Boland, Ph.D.
For nearly 20 years, Dr. Boland’s work has focused on the development of engineering solutions for cardiovascular diseases as well as chronic wounds. His materials expertise extends from bioinert metals and ceramics to bioactive and bioresorbable electrospun polymers and proteins.
Prior to joining Techshot, Boland held senior engineering positions with companies such as St. Jude Medical Inc., Cordis (a Johnson & Johnson Co.) and Cryolife. More recently he served as principal scientist at Tissue Genesis Inc. and chief of regenerative medicine at the University of Louisville’s Cardiovascular Innovation Institute.
Combining his past expertise in materials with his current research utilizing adipose-derived microvascular and adult stem cells (ADSCs), Boland has developed an epicardial heart patch for micro-coronary artery vascular grafts, as well as initiated clinical trials to advance the therapeutic use of ADSCs for peripheral and coronary vascular diseases. He has also has developed applications and delivery systems for ADSCs in regenerative medicine and wound healing.