Researchers at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical
Center in Haifa are the first in the world to create new blood vessels using
embryonic stem cells that were programmed in advance.
cells were cultured in the lab in large amounts – enough to use them for
treating cardiovascular diseases in patients.
The team was headed by
Prof. Joseph Itskovitz- Eldor, head of the obstetrics/ gynecology department at
Rambam and the stem cell lab at the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine,
together with Dr. Ayelet Dar-Vaknin. An article was published online in the
journal Circulation over the weekend.
The research team produced cells
called pericytes, which are needed to build blood vessels and to ensure their
They were produced during the differentiation of embryonic stem
cells using markers characteristic of cell membranes.
When they were
injected into mice leg muscles whose blood vessels had been almost fully
blocked, the pericytes created new blood vessels and rehabilitated the muscle
cells that had been harmed by the inadequate supply of oxygen.
experiment is equivalent to treatment on harm to other vessels starved for
oxygen such as after heart attacks and strokes.
The pericytes were
produced from embryos whose source was fertilized eggs donated for research and
from adult stem cells.
The stem cells were reprogrammed using genetic
manipulations to have characteristics of embryonic stem cells, which can produce
any kind of body cells. Since they can be produced from the patient himself, the
pericytes are not rejected by the patient’s immune system.
said the results are very important to understanding the process of blood vessel
development and treatment when they have been damaged by a halt in blood supply
Prof. Rafael Beyar, director- general of Rambam and until 2005
dean of the medical faculty, said the research is a “breakthrough with many
implications to a large number of fields. The path to implementation in patients
is still protracted, but I see it as having huge potential that could be
implemented in not too many years away.”