Growing a Blood Vessel in a Week

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a big leap forward. Two tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown in a new study from Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska University Hospital that is published in EBioMedicine.

Just three years ago, a patient at Sahlgrenska University Hospital received a blood vessel transplant grown from her own stem cells. Behind the unique operation was Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, Professor of Transplantation Biology at Sahlgrenska Academy, and Michael Olausson, Surgeon/Medical Director of the Transplant Center and Professor at Sahlgrenska Academy, who both planned and carried out the procedure.

Professors Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson are now publishing a new study in EBioMedicine based on two other transplants that were performed in 2012 at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. These 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 we used the stem cells of the patients to grow a new blood vessel that would permit the two organs to collaborate properly," Professor Olausson says.

This time, however, Professor Sumitran-Holgersson, found a way to extract stem cells that did not necessitate taking them from the bone marrow.

"Drilling in the bone marrow is very painful," she says. "It occurred to me that there must be a way to obtain the cells from the blood instead."

The fact that the patients were so young fueled Professor Sumitran-Holgersson´s passion to look for a new approach. The method involved taking 25 milliliters (approximately 3 tablespoons) of blood, the minimum quantity needed to obtain enough stem cells.

Professor Sumitran-Holgersson's idea turned out to surpass her wildest expectations – the extraction procedure worked perfectly the very first time.

"Not only that, but the blood itself accelerated growth of the new vein," Professor Sumitran-Holgersson says. “The entire process took only a week, as opposed to a month in the first case. The blood contains substances that naturally promote growth."

Professors Olausson and Sumitran-Holgersson have treated three patients so far. Two of them are still doing well and have veins that are functioning as they should. In the third case the child is still under medical survillance and the outcome is more uncertain.

The researchers have now reached the point that they can avoid taking painful blood marrow samples and complete the entire process in the matter of a week.

"We believe that 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," Professor Holgersson says. “Our dream is to be able to grow complete organs as a way of overcoming the current shortage from donors.”

The article In vivo application of tissue-engineered veins using autologous peripheral whole blood: A proof of concept study was published in EBioMedicine on 22 October.

Link to article:

Link to journal:

Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, PhD, Professor of Transplantation Biology, Sahlgrenska Academy, Laboratory for Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine, University of Gothenburg, and Department of Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, phone +46 31-343 0021,
cell +46 72-749 08 08,

Michael Olausson, Surgeon/Medical Director, Transplant Center, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Professor, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, phone 46 31-342 70 25,
cell 46 70-543 43 60,

Press Officer
Krister Svahn

Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
46766-18 38 69
4631-786 3869

The Sahlgrenska Academy is the faculty of health sciences at the University of Gothenburg. Education and research are conducted within the fields of pharmacy, medicine, odontology and health care sciences. About 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,200 postgraduate students are enrolled at Sahlgrenska Academy. Around 1,400 people work at the Sahlgrenska Academy, 850 of them are researchers and/or teachers. 2013 Sahlgrenska Academy had a turnover of 2,4 billion SEK.

Sahlgrenska University Hospital provides emergency and basic care and highly specialised care for West Sweden, with 1.7 million inhabitants. SU is also the country´s centre for certain specialised care, especially in paediatrics. SU is also well known for its successful transplant activity, treatment of cardio-vascular diseases, immunology as well as research into vaccines.





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Grown blood vessel helped young patients
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Our dream is to be able to grow complete organs.
Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, researche at the Sahlgrenska Academy