Scientists have used stem cells to grow a vein and transplant it into a 10-year-old girl, according to an amazing new study in the journal The Lancet.
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg were able to grow the vein by first taking a portion of vein from a dead donor, according to the Nature News Blog. Then, they took all of the cells off of the donated vein and put the girl's own stem cells from her bone marrow on the scaffolding from which the donor's cells were stripped.
The girl, from Sweden, needed the transplant because her vein leading to her liver was blocked, Bloomberg reported, a condition called "extrahepatic portal vein obstruction."
Usually, people with her condition have to have a transplanted donated vein, a transplanted vein from their own bodies, or a full-on liver transplant, CBC News reported. But the technique detailed in The Lancet was a new approach, one that had been previously used for growing windpipes and urethras.
"I'm very optimistic that in the near future we will be able to get both arteries and veins transplanted on a large scale," study researcher Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, of the the University of Gothenburg, told Reuters. "The advantage of using tissue grown from a patient's own cells is that there is no risk of organ rejection and hence no need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs."
CBC News reported that a year post-transplant, doctors had to conduct another transplant with a lab-grown vein because of stymied blood flow through the vein. Because she needed to have a second procedure, and if more transplants like this were done more widely in the future, it could lead to cost issues, University of College London experts wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
"The girl is somersaulting now," Sumitran-Holgersson told the blog. "Her parents told me, 'We have a completely different child.'"Last year, an artificial windpipe was transplanted for the first time into a 36-year-old man. The artificial windpipe, or trachea, was created out of a special plastic polymer in a lab and modeled using 3D scans from Beyene, and then coated with his own stem cells, USA Today reported.