Vein Grown From Stem Cells Saves 10-Year-Old Girl

By Amir Khan on June 14, 2012 9:05 AM EDT

Stem Cells
Mouse stem cells (Photo: Creative Commons)

A 10-year-old girl is alive thanks to the world's first vein transplant grown from stem cells, doctors from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden announced on Wednesday. The doctors published the details in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday, and said the transplant is an important step in the creation of new body parts.

The girl had a blockage and poor blood flow between her intestines and liver, which can be fatal. In order to replace it, the doctors used a groin vein from a deceased donor. They removed all living cells from the vein, leaving only a protein scaffold. The doctors then bathed the vein in stem cells from the girl and implanted it two weeks later.

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"The new stem-cell derived graft resulted not only in good blood flow rates, but also in strikingly improved quality of life for the patient," the doctors said, according to BBC News.

Implanting organs grown with stem cells don't come with the organ rejection risk traditional implants do, meaning the patient does not need to be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life.  Doctors hope this technique will become more widespread.

 "I'm very optimistic that in the near future we will be able to get both arteries and veins transplanted on a large scale," Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, professor of transplantation biology at the University of Gothenburg, and a member of the team that performed the operation in March 2011, told Reuters.  "You are going to see more and more of these personalized grafts in future."

Doctors typically use veins from elsewhere in the body for transplant, but that carries inherent risks, they said in the study.

"The young girl was spared the trauma of having veins harvested from the deep neck or leg with the associated risk of lower limb disorders," Martin Birchall and George Hamilton, researchers from University College London, told BBC News.

Veins are relatively simple to construct using this technique, researchers said, but building other organs would be much more difficult. However, the doctors said they hope more research is conducted, and said one day, the technique can eliminate organ transplant lists.

"[The procedure needs] to be converted into full clinical trials if regenerative medicine solutions are to become widely used," Birchall and Hamilton said.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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