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Airway Transplant Aided by Stem Cells a Medical First
Date:11/18/2008

Woman gets historic procedure in which her stem cells were combined with donated organ tissue to replace diseased organ, scientists report

TUESDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In a medical first, a 30-year-old mother of two has successfully undergone the first transplantation of a breathing passage fashioned from a donor's airway and her own stem cells, researchers report.

As of now, the woman, Claudia Castillo, who lives in Barcelona, Spain, with two children aged 15 and 4, does not need immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the new organ.

She reported that she is able to take care of her two children, can climb two flights of stairs, and even go out dancing some evenings.

"The possibility of avoiding the removal of my entire lung and, instead, replacing only my diseased bronchus with this tissue engineering process represented a unique chance for me to return to a normal life that I am now enjoying with my children and family," Castillo said in a news release.

The doctors who performed the procedure -- from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona; the University of Bristol, in England; Politecnico di Milano, in Italy, and the University of Padua, in Italy -- reported the feat online Nov. 19 in The Lancet.

"This was a really good opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of adult stem cells, which don't have the issues of immunological rejection," said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. "We clearly need to find ways to really help patients and move into the clinic in these devastating diseases. This demonstrated the utility of bioengineering."

Other experts issued some words of caution.

"Success or failure depends on how much stem cells can take over the function of the donor cells, which have a certain life span. Stem cells have, in theory, a longe
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