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Surgeons carry out first synthetic windpipe transplant

Surgeons in Sweden have carried out the world's first synthetic organ transplant.

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The replacement windpipe was grown in the lab

Scientists in London created an artificial windpipe which was then coated in stem cells from the patient.

Crucially, the technique does not need a donor, and there is no risk of the organ being rejected. The surgeons stress a windpipe can also be made within days.

The 36-year-old cancer patient is doing well a month after the operation.

Professor Paolo Macchiarini from Italy led the pioneering surgery, which took place at the Karolinska University Hospital.

In an interview with the BBC, he said he now hopes to use the technique to treat a nine-month-old child in Korea who was born with a malformed windpipe or trachea.

Professor Macchiarini already has 10 other windpipe transplants under his belt - most notably the world's first tissue-engineered tracheal transplant in 2008 on 30-year-old Spanish woman Claudia Costillo - but all required a donor.

Indistinguishable The key to the latest technique is modelling a structure or scaffold that is an exact replica of the patient's own windpipe, removing the need for a donor organ.

To do this he enlisted the help of UK experts who were given 3D scans of the 36-year-old African patient, Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene. The geology student currently lives in Iceland where he is studying for a PhD.

Using these images, the scientists at University College London were able to craft a perfect copy of Mr Beyene's trachea and two main bronchi out of glass.

This was then flown to Sweden and soaked in a solution of stem cells taken from the patient's bone marrow.

After two days, the millions of holes in the porous windpipe had been seeded with the patient's own tissue.

Dr Alex Seifalian and his team used this fragile structure to create a replacement for the patient, whose own windpipe was ravaged by an inoperable tumour.

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TAGGED: MEDICINE, SCIENCE


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