Scientists in Japan have used ostrich blood vessels to create a viable bypass in pigs, raising hopes of easier and more effective artery transplants for heart patients.

The team found they could harvest blood vessels from the bird's long neck and use them to construct artificial pathways that are up to 30 centimetres long and as little as two millimetres in diameter.

Conventional substitutes — taken from dead human donors, animals or made of synthetic fibres or resins — need to be at least double that in order to prevent problems with clotting.

Chief researcher Tetsuji Yamaoka said the arteries, which carry blood to the ostrich's head, are processed and lined with clot-preventing molecules on a nano scale.

"Ostriches are good as they provide a stable supply of narrow and long vessels," said Yamaoka, who heads the Biomedical Engineering Department of the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Centre in Suita, western Japan.

They found that the new vessel allowed blood to flow smoothly without the use of clot-prevention agents, Yamaoka said this week, calling it the world's first success in small-diameter, long bypass operations in animals.AFP