Rethinking Healthcare

10-year-old receives transplanted vein grown from her own stem cells

10-year-old receives transplanted vein grown from her own stem cells

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This is the first time a bioengineered vein was successfully transplanted using cells and parts taken entirely from humans. One day, ready-made personalized blood vessels!

Swedish surgeons have successfully transplanted a bioengineered vein into a 10-year-old girl – the world’s first recipient of a vein grown from human stem cells.

The patient was suffering from portal vein obstruction – where the vein that carries blood from the spleen and intestines to the liver is blocked, restricting her growth. When this happens to adults, surgeons often transplant a patient’s own vein from the leg. But this kind of grafting isn’t ideal for young children, since their bodies are still maturing.

So, a team led by Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson at the University of Gothenburg had to find another way. Nature Medicine explains:

  1. They extracted cells that line organs and blood vessels from the recipient’s bone marrow.
  2. They took a 3.5-inch long snippet of vein from the groin of a cadaver and stripped it of all cells using a strong detergent. This left a protein scaffold.
  3. Then they reseeded the hollow tube with the stem cells taken from girl’s bone marrow.
  4. Two weeks later, they transplanted the engineering conduit into the girl.

Because it was coated with her own cells, the vein was accepted without any need for immunosuppressive drugs. Her energy levels have improved and the blood flow to her kidneys are back to normal. She’s also somersaulting now.

The experimental procedure could help patients who need new blood vessels for dialysis or coronary bypasses by creating “a personalized artery and vein for them,” Sumitran-Holgersson says.

In 2009, a Colombian woman was the first to receive a windpipe made in the same way.

The work was reported in The Lancet last week.

[Via Nature Medicine, New Scientist, ABC]

Image of Gray’s Anatomy portal vein via Wiki

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure