Just three years ago, a patient received a blood vessel transplant grown from her own stem cells. Now, researchers have published a new study in EBioMedicine based on two other transplants that were performed in 2012. The patients, two young children, had the same condition as in the first case, they were missing the vein that goes from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver.
Once again they used the stem cells of the patients to grow a new blood vessel that would permit the two organs to collaborate properly. This time, however, the researchers found a way to extract stem cells that did not necessitate taking them from the bone marrow. The method involved taking 25 milliliter (approximately 2 tablespoons) of blood, the minimum quantity needed to obtain enough stem cells.
The idea turned out to surpass the researchers wildest expectations, the extraction procedure worked perfectly the very first time. Not only that, but the blood itself accelerated growth of the new vein. The entire process took only a week, as opposed to a month in the first case. The blood contains substances that naturally promote growth.
The researchers have treated three patients so far. Two of the three patients are still doing well and have veins that are functioning as they should. In the third case the child is under medical surveillance and the outcome is more uncertain.
This technological progress can lead to dissemination of the method for the benefit of additional groups of patients, such as those with varicose veins or myocardial infarction, who need new blood vessels. The researchers' dream is to be able to grow complete organs as a way of overcoming the current shortage from donors.