Medical First! Windpipe Transplant
Reported January 2010
BARCELONA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Surgeons have carried out the very first windpipe transplant, using stem cells, giving one woman a second chance at life. This transplant may save the lives of thousands of people who have no other options.
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Walking, let alone tackling these steps, would have been impossible for Claudia Castillo two years ago.
When thoracic surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain, first met Castillo, tuberculosis left her unable to breath and unable to be the mother she wanted to be.
"She has two kids," Dr. Macchiarini commented. "She was unable to just play with them."
Her options: remove her lung or a stem cell transplant that's never been done before. Dr. Macchiarini and his team performed the very first windpipe transplant on Castillo, rebuilding her windpipe with her very own stem cells.
"Here you see the organ which his 6 cm long," Dr. Macchiarini described.
To make the new airway, Dr. Macchiarini took a donor windpipe, washed away all the cells from it, leaving only a tissue scaffold. He then took adult stem cells from Castillo's bone marrow and implanted them into the donor windpipe. To stimulate growth, the windpipe was put into this bioreactor for four days. It was then implanted into Castillo.
"You can see how the airway is re-established and the lung starts to inflate," Dr. Macchiarini pointed out. "You see deflated lung and then inflated lung."
Castillo says she felt a difference immediately. There are no signs of rejection, and there's no need for Castillo to take any anti-rejection or transplant medications.
"She says that she's feeling very good and that she does not have any shortness of breath. She works, she takes care of the children and goes swimming," Dr. Macchiarini said.
This transplant is the first step to engineering new tissues and organs from stem cells, and could one day replace the need for organ donor waiting lists.
Dr. Macchiarini is working on creating other organs. Right now there are 104,000 people on organ donor waiting lists. Seventeen thousand people have received a donor organ so far this year.
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Head and chair of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona
Professor, University of Barcelona
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