A 10-year-old girl received a vein made from her own stem cells in what is being considered a historic procedure.
Doctors in Sweden engineered the process to remedy the girl’s hepatic portal vein obstruction, often a genetic condition in which the vein that drains blood from the spleen and intestines to the liver becomes blocked. A blockage in that vein can cause a number of health complications, from an enlarged spleen to death.
Other remedies, including transplanting veins from other parts of the body and using artificial materials, have not always been successful.
CBS News detailed how the procedure was done: A 9-centimeter portion of a vein was taken from the groin of a cadaver, then stripped of its tissue so just a scaffolding was left. That was injected with the girl’s stem cells taken from her bone marrow. It took two weeks for the cells to grow before the vein was implanted.
A study released online today in The Lancet said the graft “immediately provided the recipient with a functional blood supply.” However, due to complications a year later, a second stem cell graft was done to lengthen the first. Since then, researchers report the girl’s mental and physical health have improved.
This isn’t the first time stem cells have been used to grow body parts—scientists have grown wind pipes—and it’s hoped that such procedures will cut the need for other procedures that require immunosuppressive drugs.