Magazine article USA TODAY

Preventing Graft Rejection

Magazine article USA TODAY

Preventing Graft Rejection

Article excerpt

Damaged human veins and arteries can be repaired with synthetic fabrics, but medical researchers never have solved the problem of rejection caused by clotting or scarring. A new substance being tested at The University of Texas at Austin, however, could "trick" blood vessels into accepting the foreign material. According to chemical engineering professor Jeffery Hubbell, a peptide or synthetic protein fragment some day may be attached to the graft walls to form tiny "hooks" that will attract endothelial cells. These will cover the synthetic graft and prevent unwanted substances from the blood or cell walls from clotting or blocking the vessel.

"Vascular grafts have been used successfully for a couple of decades in treating aneurysms of the aorta. But the problem for smaller vessels in the body is that smooth muscle cells from the connecting vessel grow into the graft, and essentially grow it shut after a few years--or else the blood platelets attach to the synthetic graft material and cause clotting." In effect, this build-up causes a blockage in much the same way that cholesterol can accumulate in a vein or artery and cause clotting. The process by which the accumulation occurs is different, but the effect on the patient's health is the same.

Fortunately for heart patients, the aorta has such a large diameter that the build-up of smooth muscle cells is unlikely to pose a danger in the patient's lifetime. Smaller veins and arteries, however, can become clogged much more quickly, thus causing the graft to fail. …

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