A 10-year-old girl who recently underwent a major vein transplant received a blood vessel that was made from her own stem cells.
It is thought to be the first transplant of its kind ever to be carried out – involving a vein that has been engineered in a lab – and was carried out in March 2011.
Doctors in Sweden, from the University of Gothenburg,reported the transplant in The Lancet medical journal, and said the procedure greatly improved the patient’s quality of life.
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The girl had a blocked hepatic portal vein, which is responsible for draining blood from her gut and spleen to her liver; a problem that has the potential to turn fatal.
After extracting the donor vein, the doctors stripped it of its original cells and replaced them with the girl’s own cells, which were taken from her bone marrow.
When the 9cm length of vein was transplanted, her body immediately recognised it and accepted it, meaning she does not have to rely on taking immuno-suppressants.
The blood flow between the gut, spleen and liver was immediately restored the girl gained weight and grew in height following the transplant.
Nine months after the initial procedure, doctors also had to carry out a similar operation to rectify a narrowing of the vein.
Commenting on the revolutionary transplant, the team of doctors said: “The new stem-cells derived graft resulted not only in good blood flow rates and normal laboratory test values but also, in strikingly improved quality of life for the patient.”
Also writing in The Lancet, Martin Birchall and George Hamilton from University College London, added: “The young girl in this report was spared the trauma of having veins harvested from the deep neck or leg with the associated risk of lower limb disorders, and avoided the need for a liver or multivisceral transplantation.
"Although the graft had to be extended by a second stem cell-based graft at one year, she has an improved exercise tolerance and evidence of improved cognition.
“Thus, in a long-term economic analysis, the substantial price for a one-off, personalised treatment can be justified.
“However acute pressures on health systems mean that this argument might be impractical in larger numbers of patients.”
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