Lab-grown vein transplant is new milestone in stem cell research

In a first, doctors in Sweden have transplanted into the body of 10-year-old girl a vein grown in the laboratory from her own stem cells.

The core team that performed the procedure was led by Dr Suchitra Holgersson, a transplant medicine specialist originally from Mumbai, and included four other doctors from India. The landmark transplant was published in the British medical journal The Lancet on Thursday.

The procedure could offer a potential new way for patients lacking healthy veins to undergo dialysis or heart bypass surgery without the problems of synthetic grafts or the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs, The Lancet said.

The child had a blockage in her extrahepatic portal vein, which was obstructing blood supply to her liver. Options available to doctors included a liver transplant or taking a vein graft from the umbilical cord of a donor, which would have led to permanent dependence on immunosuppressants.

A third alternative was to graft another vein usually from the leg or neck on to the liver vein. But this procedure is associated with risks of lower limb disorders, and was not considered a viable option due to the girls young age.

Speaking to The Indian Express by phone, Dr Holgersson, a professor in the department of transplant and regenerative medicine at Sahlgrenska Science Park in Gothenburg University, explained the breakthrough procedure:

We took a 9-centimetre graft from a deceased donor and removed all its original cells, leaving a hollow piece of vein. We then extracted stem cells of two kinds from the bone marrow endothelial and smooth muscle cells of the little girl, gave it necessary growth factors, and let it incubate for two weeks.

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Lab-grown vein transplant is new milestone in stem cell research