Lab-grown vein transplant marks another 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 scholar 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 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 lifelong dependence on immunosuppressants.

A third alternative was to graft another vein usually from the leg or neck onto the liver vein. This 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 telephone, Dr Holgersson, a professor in the department of transplant and regenerative medicine at Sahlgrenska Science Park in Gothenburg University, said: 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 of the little girl endothelial and smooth muscle cells gave it necessary growth factors, and let it incubate for two weeks.

This manufactured vessel was then transplanted into the girl. Blood flow to the liver started immediately after the procedure, and since the stem cells were the patients own, there was no fear of an adverse immune reaction either, and she needs no drugs, Dr Holgersson said.

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Lab-grown vein transplant marks another milestone in stem cell research

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