In a groundbreaking procedure, surgeons report that they successfully created and transplanted a bioengineered vein implant into a ten-year old girl.
In a procedure described in The Lancet, Michael Olausson and his team at the University of Gothenburg took a nine centimeter-long vein graft from the groin of a deceased donor. After stripping the vein of all its cells, they injected the girl's bone marrow stem cells into what remained of the vein. After two weeks, physicians implanted the bioengineered vein into the girl, who suffered from portal vein obstruction.
The patient had no complications for about a year, although after blood flow from her spleen and intestines to her liver once again began to decrease, surgeons performed a second transplant. Her body shows no signs of rejecting the new vein despite taking no immunosuppressive drugs.
Why bioengineered vein grafts may be better than current options
While artificial grafts require the use of immunosuppressants in order to prevent rejection, vascular grafts bioengineered from a patient's own stem cells and a donor's vein could be more easily accepted by the human body, says Donna Arnett, future president of the American Heart Association and chair of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Additionally, surgeons often take arterial grafts from an adult patient's own neck or leg for various bypass surgeries, which can introduce a whole new set of complications (Raven, "Nature News Blog," Nature.com, 6/15; Mann, HealthDay, 6/14).