Scanning Microscopy


Numerous synthetic biomaterials have been developed as vascular substitutes. In vitro, ex vivo and in vivo studies have demonstrated that in animals, selected materials, i.e., Dacron and ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) grafts, are successfully incorporated in both the large and the small caliber host arteries through a process which is generally referred to as graft healing. Morphologically, this process consists of a series of complex events including fibrin deposition and degradation, monocyte-macrophage recruitment and flow-oriented cell-layer generation, this last event being the complete endothelialization of the arterial substitute.

In contrast to experimental animals, the flow surface of synthetic vascular grafts remains unhealed in humans, particularly in the small caliber conduits. Healing in man consists of graft incorporation by the perigraft fibrous tissue response with a surface covered by more or less compacted, cross-linked fibrin.

It is therefore obvious that: i) marked differences in graft healing exist between animals and man; and ii) the usual mechanisms of graft endothelialization are partially ineffective in man.

In order to guarantee the patency of synthetic vascular grafts for human small artery bypass, new strategies and approaches have recently been attempted. In particular, the endothelial cell seeding approach has been successfully accomplished in animals and is being experimented in human clinical studies.

The problems and results of this biological approach are outlined in this paper.

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