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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 12:37 GMT
Researchers 'grow' heart arteries
The research will involve growing arteries
Scientists are to use an 84,000 grant to try and "grow" test tube arteries for use in heart bypass operations.

The researchers hope to prove arteries can be grown outside the body from human skin cells.

It is being led by surgeon Andrew Owens of Durham University and James Cook University Hospital on Teesside.

Surgery involves bypassing blocked arteries by grafting blood vessels from other parts of the body. The grant was awarded by Heart Research UK.

The 24-month study will take stem cells from the skin and attempt to stimulate them to transform themselves into the cells found in a normal artery.

Mr Owens said: "Coronary artery disease is still one of the biggest causes of death in the Western world.

"I am hoping that this research will show us if it is possible to see if and how skin stem cells can be used to grow new blood vessels.

"If this proves possible we could be able to grow bypass vessels specifically for a patient using their own cells, which would benefit the patient much more than the current graft materials used."

Barbara Harpham, National Director of Heart Research UK, said the technique could save more lives as more "spare" arteries would be available for operations.

"Sadly most people have been affected by heart disease in some way and we want to help scientists improve treatments and techniques to help save lives."

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