A team of British researchers are set to begin a trial program by planting nanotechnology-based artificial arteries into humans.
Scientists at London's Royal Free Hospital received a grant of more than $800,000 to move the artificial artery project from the laboratory to human trials within the next year, according to the hospital. The artificial arteries are made of a polymer material that's combined with nanomaterials. The hospital said the materials can closely mimic natural vessels by pulsing along with the beating of the patient's heart.
The grant was issued by the Wellcome Trust, which is the largest charity in the U.K.
"The new micro-graft pulses rhythmically to match the beat of the heart," said George Hamilton, a team leader and professor of vascular surgery at the Royal Free Hospital. "As well as this, the new graft material is strong, flexible, resistant to blood clotting and doesn't break down, which is a major breakthrough."
The arteries are designed to replace ruptured or diseased vessals in human hearts and legs.
Nanotechnology has been a major part of medical research in recent years.
Last October, for example, Stanford University researchers reported that they had used nanotechnology and magnetics to create a biosensor designed to detect cancer in its early stages, making a cure more likely.
A month earlier, researchers at the University of Toronto used nanomaterials to develop a microchip they say is also sensitive enough to detect early stage cancer. The chip is designed to detect the type of cancer and its severity.
And last August, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine announced that a team of researchers are creating "nanobees" to fight cancerous tumors. The process uses nanoparticles to deliver the primary component of bee venom, called melittin, through the body to kill cancerous tumor cells.
In the latest effort, the British team is trying to overcome problems associated with plastic grafts traditionally used to replace vessels. The problem with plastic grafts, particularly in smaller sizes, is that they cannot pulse and they tend to cause blood clots.
The scientists believe that mixing nanomaterials with a polymer creates more flexible artificial arteries, according to Hamilton.
"This will be hugely beneficial to patients in the [hospital] as we will be able to reduce heart attacks, reduce amputations and ultimately save lives," he added.
Sharon Gaudin covers Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies and desktop/laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter @sgaudin, send e-mail at email@example.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .