“Towards the development of a pathological ex vivo blood vessel model":

a possible alternative to ‘petri dishes’ as well as to animal testing. 

LifeTec Group - Vessels in a box (alternative to animal testing)
'Shear Stress Symposium'

A great moment in Noemi Vanerio’s scientific career was also a reason to celebrate for the entire LifeTec Group team: 

During the ‘Shear Stress Symposium’ in Chicago, officially entitled ‘The 12th International Symposium on Biomechanics in Vascular Biology and Cardiovascular Disease’,  Noemi presented her study, its progress, and the insights it provided: 

“Towards the development of a pathological ex vivo blood vessel model”

The abstract was made available to all on Friday 13 April 2018 (see ‘Download’ elsewhere on this page).


Noemi will personally explain her study and the developments at the International Conference of Tissue-Engineered Heart Valves (ICTEHV) in Amsterdam on 18 May, and at ASAIO in Washington, to be held on 13 to 16 June

(Citing the abstract) Introduction:

“In the cardiovascular field, the evaluation of medical devices like drug-eluting stents and bioresorbable vascular scaffolds is mainly based on animal models or in vitro platforms. These have several limitations, such as complexity and lack of biological response respectively. 

New approaches are: involving the assessment of the devices in ex vivo blood vessel platforms with the advantage of having both controlled hemodynamic parameters like pressure and flow rate, and the presence of native tissue with a reduction of animal experimentation.

One drawback of this approach is that healthy blood vessels are being used to test devices that will actually be implanted in diseased vessels, which could lead to biased results. Therefore, the aim of this study is to develop a pathological ex vivo blood vessel model for long-term culture in a controlled way, which can then be used to test therapies and devices.” 

LifeTec Group - Blood Vessels in a box (alternative to animal testing)
"blood vessels 'made sick'..."

This is a possible alternative to ‘petri dishes’ as well as to animal testing. It will provide better and/or more realistic insights because it will involve the use of real blood vessels, but slaughterhouse material instead of lab animals.

Since those blood vessels can actually be ‘made sick’, you’ll be able to see for real if the treatment works or has an effect, again leading to better and/or more realistic insights. 

"This is possible because we can keep the blood vessels alive outside the body for a longer period of time, in a controlled environment, with realistic parameters and a realistic ‘blood pressure’. As a result of all this, not only the effects of acute interventions but also the effects of therapies and interventions in the longer term can be studied, tested and therefore also developed" Noemi says. 

LifeTec Group - Blood Vessels in a box (alternative to animal testing)
A perfect match

Noemi Vanerio is one of the Early Stage Researchers working on a European project within LifeTec Group. These projects all have a few things in common: a consortium is always formed around a specific research objective, and it’s always a ‘public private collaboration’; for example between knowledge institutes and businesses.

Another characteristic is that the collaboration is always international. And that is how Italian-born Noemi Vanerio, who studied at the Politecnico di Milano, came to LifeTec Group in Eindhoven. From there she joined forces with Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and AMC in Amsterdam, among others. 

Noemi is a perfect match for the LifeTec Group team. "We click on a personal level, but we also share a ‘get to the bottom of things’ mentality, a passion for the work, and a penchant for continuous improvement." LifeTec Group Head of Research Linda Kock says.

LifeTec Group - Vascular Bioreactor Platform
Vascular Bioreactor Platform

LifeTec Group’s Vascular Bioreactor (VABIO) Platform is the technical foundation on which Noemi Vanerio and the team grow and develop. The platform ‘as is’ can already keep blood vessels of for instance pigs alive outside the body for a number of weeks in the laboratory. It’s a controlled environment that keeps condition like ‘blood pressure’, humidity and temperatures constant. The studied parts can also be visualised in an echogram. 

The VABIO platform creates a lot more research possibilities and purer insights than lab animals or ‘growing cells in a petri dish’ can. 

LifeTec Group - Blood vessels in a box
But there’s always room for improvement:

The chances of finding a vessel in the slaughterhouse material that is affected by arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis or an aneurysm are practically zero.

But that is exactly the kind of vessel you’d want for your research into, and development of, a coil, clip or percutaneous angioplasty procedure.

In other words, research through the Vascular Bioreactor Platform would be expanded significantly if we could use ‘sick vessels’, or better still: create them.

LifeTec Group - Vasular Bioreactor Platform
In conclusion

Imagine having calcified or clogged-up arteries, or being at risk of an aneurysm…

It’s a comforting thought in this age of prosperity and aging populations - and the diseases that come with it - to know that promising rookies like Noemi Vanerio are working at a European level to improve our quality of life. 


Noemi Vanerio, Alberto Leopaldi, Marco Stijnen, Bas de Mol and Linda Kock

Head of MedTech Innovation

Marco Stijnen

Head of Research & Training

Linda Kock

Medical Director

Bas de Mol

Relevant links and background:

This work was supported by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 Framework through the MSCA-ITN- ETN European Training Networks (project number 642458). 


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