Dr Thomas Aper, Prof. Mathias Wilhelmi and their team at the Department of Cardiothoracic, Transplant and Vascular Surgery (Director: Prof. Axel Haverich) at the Hannover Medical School (MHH) have developed a new approach to producing natural vascular prostheses. Using a highspeed rotation method, the blood clotting protein fibrin is first compacted and then formed into stable tubes of any desired diameter and length. The prostheses have similar biomechanical properties to natural blood vessels and can be stored at room temperature for up to six months. They can therefore be stockpiled and taken ‘off the shelf’ as and when required for bypass operations. Findings in model systems show that the prostheses are rapidly colonized with endothelial cells in the body, and are gradually converted to neoarteries. If results obtained from ongoing studies are confirmed, these natural vascular prostheses could avoid the need for transplantation of blood vessels from other parts of the body in the long term, or replace arteries made of synthetic materials that can trigger rejection reactions. In Germany, this would benefit up to 50,000 patients a year in cardiac surgery alone.
Ascenion has been working closely with the clinicians for several years. Together, they have been able to secure patent protection for the prosthesis production process and have acquired EUR 1 million for translation through VIP+, the validation funding programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This should allow the project to advance to the start of clinical trials within around three years.