Kidney dialysis is very hard on the veins of the patient.
Most patients need a shunt: a blood vessel especially strengthened to withstand the repeated connections to the dialysis machine.
When the patient doesn’t have an appropriate blood vessel, a plastic material is used. These plastic shunts do not last well, frequently becoming infected and inflamed.
What if it were possible to grow a new artificial vessel, one from the patient’s own cells?
Promising research indicates scientists may be able to do just that in the future. So far they have grown new, artificial blood vessels for 10 patients, and preliminary results are promising.
The process of growing an artificial blood vessel takes about 6 months, and uses cells from the skin on the patient’s hand.
Artificial blood vessels would not only be useful for dialysis patients, but also for patients who need coronary artery bypass surgery or other similar surgical procedures.
The artificial blood vessels are expensive, costing as much as $20,000. A plastic shunt can be purchased for about $3,000.
However, if an artificial blood vessel lasts longer than a plastic shunt and does not require frequent replacement, or cause infection and inflammation, the cost may not remain an issue.
Research and trials will be ongoing.