The stem cell revolution is doing exactly what had been predicted of it – saving lives of patients with rare diseases. A 10-year old Swedish girl, suffering from a blockage of a vein in the liver (medically ‘extrahepatic portal vein blockage’), is the first recipient of a major vein replacement using stem cells.
Stem Cells are cells capable of specializing into cells with very specific functions. Stem cells can thus be used to regenerate any part of the body, proving invaluable to treatment of cancer – or even vein blockages.
Associated Press reported the story saying that the vein replacement using stem cells was the alternative to a liver transplant. A 9-cm vein was taken from a dead man and stripped of all living cells. Only the protein remained, devoid of any genetic information. This was then grafted with the stem cells extracted and harvested from the girl’s bone marrow. The graft became a vein exactly identical to one made by the girl’s body within a period of two weeks of so. This was planted into the patients body after removing the offending blocked vein.
No post-operative complications
There have been no complications accompanying the surgery. The biggest fear remains that of rejection. If the body’s immune system recognises the grafted vein as a foreign object, it will attack it, causing severe complications and even death. This happens during the first few days immediately after surgery and immunosupressant are prescribed to prevent this hyperactivity of the immune system.
In this present case, no immunosuppression was required. A liver transplant requires lifelong dependance on immunosuppresants.
The doctors measured the blood flow through the new vein and found it to be normal. This was confirmed using ultrasound.
The whole operation has been funded by the Swedish government.