Author(s): Zilla P, Bezuidenhout D, Human P
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Abstract In humans, prosthetic vascular grafts remain largely without an endothelium, even after decades of implantation. While this shortcoming does not affect the clinical performance of large bore prostheses in aortic or iliac position, it contributes significantly to the high failure rate of small- to medium-sized grafts (SMGs). For decades intensive but largely futile research efforts have been under way to address this issue. In spite of the abundance of previous studies, a broad analysis of biological events dominating the incorporation of vascular grafts was hitherto lacking. By focusing on the three main contemporary graft types, expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), Dacron and Polyurethane (PU), accumulated clinical and experimental experience of almost half a century was available. The main outcome of this broad analysis-supported by our own experience in a senescent non-human primate model-was twofold: Firstly, inappropriate animal models, which addressed scientific questions that missed the point of clinical relevance, were largely used. This led to a situation where the vast majority of investigators unintentionally studied transanastomotic rather than transmural or blood-borne endothelialization. Given the fact that in patients transanastomotic endothelialization (TAE) covers only the immediate perianastomotic region of sometimes very long prostheses, TAE is rather irrelevant in the clinical context. Secondly, transmural endothelialization seems to have a time window of opportunity before a build-up of an adverse microenvironment. In selecting animal models that prematurely terminate this build-up through the early presence of an endothelium, the most significant 'impairment factor' for physiological tissue regeneration in vascular grafts remained ignored. By providing insight into mechanisms and experimental designs which obscured the purpose and scope of several decades of vascular graft studies, future research may better address clinical relevance.
This article was published in Biomaterials
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy