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Stem Cells make ‘Milestone moment’ Possible

Posted by dorian on March 19, 2010

(PA) The stem cells are now reconstructing the airway and ensuring it is not rejected by his immune system

From Times Online
March 20, 2010

‘Milestone moment’ as boy undergoes transplant to regenerate trachea

Sam Lister, Health Editor

A British boy has undergone a groundbreaking operation involving the transplantation of a windpipe which is being regenerated inside his body using his own stem cells.

Scientists described the operation, carried out on Monday at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, as a ‘milestone moment’ in the development of techniques that could allow people to rebuild damaged or transplanted organs inside their bodies.

The replacement trachea, the bony tube that connects the nose, mouth and lungs, was stripped of the donor’s cells to leave a scaffold which was then laced with the child’s stem cells. The boy, aged 10, then received the transplant hours later. The stem cells are now reconstructing the airway and ensuring it is not rejected by his immune system.

The operation is the first to use stem cells with the scaffold inside the body. It is also the first entire windpipe transplant to be carried out on a child and is also the first to involve the entire length of the trachea.


The doctors who carried out the procedure said the technique reduced greatly the risk of rejection of the new trachea, as the child’s stem cells will not generate any immune response. They said the child, who is not being identified, is recovering well and is able to speak.

Professor Martin Elliott, who led the surgery at Great Ormond Street, added that the technique was a breakthrough because, once the scaffold was ready, it could be carried out in a matter of hours.

The scientists added that because the regeneration occured in the human body rather than a laboratory, it cost “tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds”. They said that they hoped it would speed the course of organ regeneration, with the possibility of moving in to operations involving the larynx or oesophagus.

Professor Paolo Macchiarini, who developed the scaffold technology and is based at Careggi University Hospital, Florence, said: “This underlines how we know that the time has come to change how we focus on transplantation. Rather than wait until an organ fails we should try to use stem cells in this way. It shows how we should be working towards treating organs such as the heart and lungs with the appropriate cells to try to replace the function of that organ.”

The trachea transplant was carried out by British and Italian doctors. It follows an operation carried out by doctors in Spain in 2008 when a woman received a windpipe made with her own stem cells — the first tissue-engineered whole organ transplant. However the procedure was carried out in a laboratory before the rebuilt airway was transplanted in its entirety into the patient.

The latest operation involved the stripping down of a trachea, which was donated by a woman who had died recently, to the inert collagen. Strong chemicals and enzymes were used to wash away all of the cells, leaving only a tissue scaffold made of the fibrous protein collagen.

The child recipient’s bone marrow stem cells were collected, and applied to the graft in situ in the body, to rebuild the cellular component of the trachea and make the new airway sealed and effective.

Scientists believe that breakthroughs in organ construction using stem cells will likely mean that any transplant organ could be made in this way in a matter of decades. American scientists have already successfully implanted bladder patches grown in the laboratory from patients’ own cells into people with bladder disease.

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One Response to “Stem Cells make ‘Milestone moment’ Possible”

  1. dorian said

    seven years ago my sister in london was given the stem cell treatment to treat her cancer also using her own harvested healthy stem cells. the treatment wouldn’t have been possible if she lived in this country because the bush government, insisting on believing the false notion that stem cells can only be derived from human embryo, banned all stem cell treatment and research. we now have eight years of catching up with the rest of the world on this life saving medical procedure.


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