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Stem Cells

Girl, 10, receives vein grown from own stem cells

A young girl in Sweden has had a major vein replaced with another grown using her own stem cells.

SCIENTISTS IN SWEDEN have successfully transplanted a vein grown from stem cells into the body of a 10-year-old girl – using stem cells taken from her own body.

The groundbreaking operation, which saw the first biologically tissue-engineered vein transplanted, was conducted to counteract a condition called portal vein obstruction.

A hepatic portal vein obstruction is a serious condition that causes the blood to be drained from the intestines and spleen to the liver, which can lead to grave complications such as lethal variceal bleeding, enlarged spleen, developmental retardation, and even death.

In research published in leading medical journal The Lancet, a team led by Professor Suchitra Sumitran-Holdgersson of the University of Gothenburg said that the pioneering results could offer a potential new way for patients lacking healthy veins to undergo dialysis or heart bypass surgery without suffering common problems – including the the knots and blockages associated with synthetic grafts, or the requirement for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs.

During the procedure, the team took a 9cm segment of iliac (groin) vein from a deceased donor and removed all living cells, leaving a tube consisting the protein scaffolding alone. This scaffolding was then injected with stem cells obtained from the girl’s own bone marrow. Two weeks after seeding, the graft was reimplanted during a meso Rex bypass procedure.

One year on from the first graft procedure, researchers say the girl is now able to take increasingly long-distance walks of 2 to 3 km and is also taking part in light gymnastics. Most importantly – despite not taking immunosuppressive drugs - she has not developed anti-donor antibodies.

The authors of the study added that the procedure had resulted in a “strikingly improved quality of life” for the patient.

They said the work suggested the “feasibility and safety” of such treatment for certain cases, and also opened “interesting new areas of research, including trying to reproduce arteries for surgical use in patients with arteriovenous fistulas for dialysis [a type of vascular access for dialysis] or coronary bypass surgery.”

Researchers have called for full clinical trials in key target populations.

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