Incredible! The First Synthetic Windpipe

by Malc on August 12, 2011

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

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In 2008, a woman in Italy with a windpipe ravaged by tuberculosis received a windpipe transplant. A donor windpipe was stripped of all cells, leaving just the cartilaginous framework, then the woman’s own stem cells were introduced to produce a complete windpipe.

The transplant was a success.

Then, in 2010, a child with a congenitally narrowed windpipe had the donor cartilage transplanted into his body along with a cocktail of growth factors plus his own stem cells. When it had grown, the new windpipe was swapped for the old one – and the child, at last, could breath properly.

Synthetic Windpipe

Now, in a further development, the donor is no longer needed. A completely synthetic windpipe has been grown at University College, London, exactly the same shape and size as a patient’s own, and seeded with stem cells. The whole growth process took around a week. The completely synthetic windpipe was then transplanted into the patient.

Being synthetic, no donor is needed and so the risk of rejection – a big problem with donor transplants – is zero. Because of this rejection problem a patient with a donated organ has to have their immune system heavily suppressed, increasing the chance of an life-threatening infection taking hold. In other words, with a synthetic transplant plus their own stem cells, patients will simply live longer.

A Massive Medical Breakthrough

This is a huge breakthrough. It is now only a matter of time before a large number of body parts will be able to be produced on request.

Does this seem just a little grotesque? In a sense, perhaps. But if you needed a replacement organ in a hurry I know most of us would be pleased one could be made this way.

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