The first tissue-engineered trachea (windpipe), utilising the patient's own stem cells, has been successfully transplanted into a young woman with a failing airway. The bioengineered trachea immediately provided the patient with a normally functioning airway, thereby saving her life.
These remarkable results provide crucial new evidence that adult stem cells, combined with biologically compatible materials, can offer genuine solutions to other serious illnesses.
In particular, the successful outcome shows it is possible to produce a tissue-engineered airway with mechanical properties that permit normal breathing and which is free from the risks of rejection seen with conventional transplanted organs. The patient has not developed antibodies to her graft, despite not taking any immunosuppressive drugs. Lung function tests performed two months after the operation were all at the better end of the normal range for a young woman.
The pan-European team from the universities of Barcelona, Bristol, Padua and Milan report on this pioneering work in an article published early online and in an upcoming edition of The Lancet.
The loss of a normal airway is devastating, but previous attempts to replace large airways have met serious problems. The 30-year-old mother of two, suffering from collapsed airways following a severe case of TB, was hospitalised in March 2008 with acute shortness of breath rendering her unable to carry out simple domestic duties or care for her children. The only conventional option remaining was a major operation to remove her left lung which carries a risk of complications and a high mortality rate.
Based on successful laboratory work previously performed by the team, and given the urgency of the situation, it was proposed that the lower trachea and the tube to the patient's left lung (bronchus) should be replaced with a bioengineered airway based on the scaffold of a human trachea.
|Contact: Cherry Lewis|
University of Bristol