Soon, artificial windpipe to cut transplant rejection risk

Scientists have come up with an artificial trachea made with patient’s own cells, which will help in performing successful transplant surgeries on patients suffering from tracheal tumours.

Tracheal tumours can be surgically removed, but most are too large for the surgery to be successful by the time they are discovered. Therefore, new therapeutic options are needed that include a trachea substitute with similar anatomical, physiological and biomechanical properties of the patient’s original trachea were available.

A team led by Paolo Macchiarini, MD, PhD, of Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, successfully performed this type of procedure on a 36-year-old male patient with tracheal cancer on June 2011.

In November, the Macchiarini team repeated its success when it performed an identical operation on a 30-year-old Baltimore engineer with a cancerous tumour on his trachea.

In addition to Dr. Macchiarini, the international team involved Professor Alexander Seifalian, who designed and built the nanocomposite tracheal scaffold, and Harvard Bioscience of Holliston, Massachusetts, which produced a specifically designed, shoebox-sized bioreactor used to seed the scaffold with the patient’s own stem cells.

The cells were grown on the scaffold inside the bioreactor for approximately two days and the scaffold was rotated while its surface was soaked with stem cells obtained from a bone marrow biopsy from the patient’s hip.

The patient’s stem cells settled into the pores within the scaffold and began to grow into each other, slowly transforming from individual cells into genuine tissue.

A few days after the implantation of the new trachea, the man’s own blood vessels actually started to grow into it, transforming the new organ into a part of his own body.

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Because the cells used to regenerate the trachea were the patient’s own, there was no rejection of the transplant and the patient is not taking immunosuppressive drugs.

The successful transplantation of tissue-engineered synthetic organs, referred to as regenerative medicine, could open new and very promising therapeutic possibilities for the thousands of patients who suffer from tracheal cancer or other conditions that destroy, block or constrict the airway.

The study has been recently published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

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