July 8, 2011

Stem-cell windpipe saves cancer patient

A patient will be discharged from a hospital in Sweden today after his cancerous windpipe was removed and replaced by the world's first artificial trachea, made of his own stem cells grown on a human-made plastic matrix.

"This is the first permanent artificial organ ever," said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, professor of regenerative surgery at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, who led an international team of researchers.

Just as remarkable as the artificial windpipe, he said, is how quickly it was produced. Collaborators in Sweden, London and the U.S. created the trachea from scratch in just two days for a 36-year-old man whose cancer was so far advanced that only emergency surgery offered him any chance of survival.

Rejection is unlikely because the new trachea is made of a special plastic polymer and the patient's own cells, Macchiarini said.

"Frankly speaking, I was very much scared," said the patient, Andemariam Teklesenbet of Eritrea, who is a student at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. "I was about to refuse the surgery, but Dr. Macchiarini explained everything to me. I prayed. I accepted it."

The procedure represents yet another step in the evolution of tissue engineering that began with skin in the 1980s and later with bladders and blood vessels, said George Daley, director of stem-cell transplantation at Children's Hospital Boston.

by USA Today Jul. 8, 2011 12:00 AM

Stem-cell windpipe saves cancer patient

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