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Research Providing New Hope for Kidney Patients

March 15, 2017

A revolutionary bioengineered vein is being tested at Overlook Medical Center that could potentially extend the life of patients living without a functioning kidney. Clifford Sales, MD, chief of vascular surgery for Overlook Medical Center, says his team is one of 21 sites worldwide selected to participate in the Humacyte® Acellular Vessel trial. As of this printing, Atlantic Health System is No. 4 worldwide in terms of global enrollment.

Patients who do not have a functioning kidney undergo hemodialysis, a procedure where blood is removed from the body, cleansed in a dialysis machine, and returned to the body. Over time, the connection between the artery and vein deteriorates.

“When patients don’t have good veins, either because they are too small or they’ve been used, we put in an artificial vein, which is a plastic tube that may only last a year or two,” says Dr. Sales. “The acellular vessel is more like a living, breathing tube made from human cells; so when you put it into a person, the body doesn’t reject it – and it is our hope that it can last much longer than the plastic tubes we have been using for decades.”

Dr. Sales says between 20 and 30 percent of the dialysis population could benefit from the acellular vessel. The study started in August 2016 and has enrolled 13 participants so far. Each patient will be followed for several years to determine how the graft is working.

“We hope this works as well as the patient’s own vessels,” says Dr. Sales, “because the next logical step would be to start using it for heart bypasses and for leg bypasses.”

For more information about the Humacyte Acellular vessel trial, call Dr. Sales at 973-759-9000.