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Stem Cells of 10-Year-old Girl Used by Surgeon to Save Her Life

Stem Cell Research
A researcher applies supplement to stem cells in a lab at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg

A 10-year-old girl with a deadly blood clot underwent a life-saving surgery that showed the power of using stem cells to regenerate healthy organs.

The girl developed a clot in the blood vessel between her intestine and liver during her first year of life, creating the risk of potentially fatal bleeding. Michael Olausson, a surgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital at the University of Gothenburg took a blood vessel from a donor, chemically removed tissue and DNA from it, then seeded stem cells from the girl’s bone marrow to create a healthy, living blood vessel.

“We carried out the surgery over three months ago now, and the result was very good, with no serious complications,” Olausson, of the hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, said today in a statement. “The girl is in good health, and we believe that her prognosis is very good. Since the vessel was created with the girl’s own stem cells, she does not need to take drugs to prevent rejection.”

A similar procedure was used in 2008 by surgeons in Barcelona to create a new windpipe for a 30-year-old woman whose airway collapsed from a tuberculosis infection.

More research may lead to the ability to remake other organs and arteries, Olausson said. This might help patients who need kidney dialysis or surgery on arteries leading to their heart, Olausson said.

While blood vessels from other parts of a patient’s body are sometimes used to repair such defects, liver failure can result if the vessels are inadequate, according to the hospital’s statement.

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