A Washington University team led by biomedical engineer Donald Elbert is developing a coating for artificial blood vessels that inhibit clotting. Polyethylene glycol is combined with a protein fragment that binds endothelial cells and an enzyme that metabolizes a blood lipid to sphingosine-1-phosphate, which in turn controls growth and survival of the endothelial cells. The resulting gel is expected to fight initial clot development and eventually lead to growth of the same cell lining that is found in human blood vessels.
Other researchers have tried to grow 'natural' blood vessels or create artificial blood vessels from clot-resistant materials. Neither approach has been fully successful. Although Elbert's idea has not progressed outside the lab, it looks promising by harnessing the repair and growth capabilities of the human body.