A 10-year-old girl from Sweden is the first person in the world to undergo a successful vein transplant where a donated vein was seeded with the patient’s own stem cells so as to ward off rejection, it has been revealed.
Sumitran-Holgersson and her colleagues obtained the 9-centimetre-long section of vein from the groin of a cadaver, and stripped it of all the donor’s cells using strong detergents, leaving just the underlying protein scaffold.
Next, they extracted endothelial and smooth muscle cells from the girl’s bone marrow. These cells line organs and blood vessels. After multiplying them in the lab, they coated them onto the inner and outer surfaces of the donated vein and implanted it into the girl.
Because it was coated with her own cells, and all the donor’s cells had disappeared, the vein was accepted by the girl without any need for immunosuppressive drugs.
The girl had been victim to recurrent blockages in the hepatic portal vein, which serves to drain blood into the liver. This condition, while of course reducing her vitality, had also had a severe impact on her growth.
The traditional method to treat such a blockage would have been a painful harvesting procedure where veins are taken from an area of the deep neck or leg (for a meso Rex bypass), in the latter case creating an associated risk of lower limb disorders.
The girl, as a result of this new technique, is said to have developed no post-operative complications. Furthermore, a year on from the procedure and the girl’s height had increased significantly. However, doctors became aware of a partial decrease in blood flow in the area which, medical staff concluded, meant the girl required a second graft. Since that time, the girl is reportedly doing well.
A method like this was used in 2008 when a Colombian woman became the first to receive a donor windpipe seeded with her own stem cells.