Stem cell technology gave the girl new blood vessels

A Swedish girl with a serious condition has got a new vessel made by tissue culture. The operation gave the girl a better quality of life, reports researchers in Gothenburg in the journal Lancet.

The girl, who comes from southern Sweden, had since the first year of life had a stopper in the doorway that connects the intestines and the liver. At the age of ten, doctors at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg estimated that the condition was so severe that she needed a new blood vessel.

Normally, such a transplant may be performed with a blood vessel from another part of the body, but in the present case, these vessels were not considered long enough to be used.

Two other possible alternatives, to transplant a new liver or new vessel from another donor, were also not considered appropriate as it would require lifelong treatment with immunosuppressive drugs.

The doctors then decided, in consultation with the girl’s parents, for the first time to test a new method. A friend was taken from a deceased donor and the cells were removed so that only the support tissue remained. Subsequently, stem cells were added from the girl’s bone marrow and already after four weeks a new blood vessel had emerged.

One year after the transplantation, the blood flow was low in the new vein and a study showed that tissue clogged the vessel. The tissue was removed and the vascular graft extended. After the new procedure, good blood pressure and blood flow were measured again in the vein.

The girl has, after the first intervention, gained an increased quality of life with better physical ability, improved speech and increased concentration ability. She has also increased in both weight and length since the new vessel was operated.

The researchers who produced the vascular graft are active at the Sahlgrenska Academy and transplantation center at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. They believe that further research is needed in the field, but believes that the method of stem cell-augmented vascular grafts in the future may become an alternative for restoring damaged vessels, for example during dialysis or by bypass surgery of the heart.