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Organs grown from stem cells may save the lives 2012-06-19

Doctors in Sweden have replaced a vital blocked blood vessel in a 10-year-old girl using the first vein grown in a lab from a patient's own stem cells. The successful transplant operation marks a further advance in the search for ways to make new body parts. It could open the door to stem cell-based grafts for heart bypass and dialysis patients who lack suitable blood vessels for replacement surgery. The advantage of using tissue grown from a patient's own cells is that there is no risk of organ rejection and hence no need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs.


The team from the University of Gothenburg took a 9 cm (3.5 inch) section of groin vein from a deceased donor and removed all the living cells, leaving just a protein scaffold tube. Stem cells extracted from the girl's bone marrow were then injected onto the tube and two weeks later the graft was implanted. The new blood vessel immediately restored normal blood flow, the doctors said, although after a year it narrowed and a second stem cell-based graft was needed.


Around the world, scientists in the emerging field of regenerative medicine are working to engineer many different human organs and tissues in the lab, including lungs and hearts. Building such complex organs is a lot more challenging than making blood vessels, however, since veins are relatively simple hollow structures with few engineering demands.


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