Scientists reveal ‘human textiles’ to replace damaged blood vessels

11 Feb 2020

Traditional textiles being weaved, not ‘human textiles’. Image: © VTT Studio/

Brand new blood vessels could be grown in the lab following a breakthrough in what scientists are calling ‘human textiles’.

In the latest step towards replacing every component of the human body, researchers at the University of Bordeaux – as part of France’s national institute for health and medical research (INSERM) – have created ‘human textiles’. In a study published to Acta Biomaterialia, Nicolas L’Heureux and his fellow scientists said that this new material could be used to replace damaged blood vessels in the body.

The discovery is part of their research on the human extracellular matrix – the structural support of human tissues found around almost all of the body’s cells. To create the human textiles, they cultivated human cells in the lab to obtain extracellular matrix deposits high in collagen.

The structural protein is the crucial, mechanical scaffold of the human extracellular matrix, which L’Heureux said the team obtained in thin, but highly robust, sheets. The researchers then cut these sheets to form yarn – similar to that used to make fabric for clothing.

Blue gloves holding the 'human textiles' in a lab.

The ‘human textiles’. Image: Nicolas L’Heureux

Spin a good yarn

“The resulting yarn can be woven, knitted or braided into various forms,” L’Heureux said.

“Our main objective is to use this yarn to make assemblies which can replace the damaged blood vessels.”

As they are made entirely from biological material, the artificial blood vessels have the advantage of being well tolerated by all patients. Given that collagen does not vary from individual to individual, it is not expected that the body will consider these vessels as foreign bodies that need to be rejected.

The researchers are now looking to refine the production process ahead of animal testing which, if successful, could lead to human trials.

Meanwhile, research revealed earlier this month by a team from University of Toronto Engineering and Sunnybrook Hospital in Canada showed it was possible to apply new skin to severe burns with a 3D printer that acts like a paint roller.

Using a special ‘bio ink’, the handheld 3D printer uses skin cells to promote skin growth and reduce scarring.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic