DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — An experimental medical product made by a Durham biotech company could save lives in Ukraine.
Packages of engineered blood vessels just arrived in the country to help treat people injured in the war.
The company, Humacyte, uses human cells to create blood vessels in its lab in Durham. Currently, the vessels are in clinical trials, but when a Ukrainian surgeon asked the company to send them into the war zone, they knew they had to try.
“We are the only company on the planet using human cells to make replacement human tissues and to make those tissues at commercial scale,” explained Humacyte founder and CEO, Dr. Laura Niklason.
The company is studying the vessels in clinical trials, but the war raging in Ukraine left surgeons there in immediate need of anything that might help save lives.
“We got our first request from a Ukrainian surgeon at a hospital on the front lines back in March,” Niklason explained.
Humacyte worked with the FDA and the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to send 30 of the engineered vessels to six hospitals in Ukraine.
“A lot of the logistical hurdles of shipping a medical product into a conflict zone, that was at least as hard as any other part of this,” noted Niklason.
The other challenge was making sure Ukrainian surgeons could use the vessels.
“We had to train them on the vessel and how to use it and how to take care of their patients. We actually did a lot of training in Ukrainian over the last few weeks,” said Niklason.
The packages containing the vessels recently arrived in Kyiv, into the hands of grateful medical teams.
“To me, it’s been kind of amazing that we could pull this off at all, that we could get vessels into the country, into a conflict zone,” Niklason marveled.
Now as Ukrainian doctors work desperately to save lives, they have a new tool made in the Triangle.
The vessels are still experimental, and while it isn’t easy to get information in a war zone, Humacyte hopes to follow the cases of people who receive the vessels and see how they’re doing.