Woman receives windpipe built from her stem cells
A Colombian woman has become the world’s first recipient of windpipe tissue constructed from a combination of donated tissue and her own cells.
Stem cells harvested from the woman’s bone marrow were used to populate a stripped-down section of windpipe received from a donor, which was then transplanted into her body in June.
«Surgeons can now start to see and understand the very real potential for adult stem cells and tissue engineering to radically improve their ability to treat patients», says
Martin Birchall, professor of surgery at the University of Bristol, UK, and a member of the team which constructed the windpipe tissue. «We believe this success has proved that we
are on the verge of a new age in surgical care».
Claudia Castillo, the 30-year-old patient, had suffered a collapse of the tracheal branch of her windpipe leading to her left lung following a severe tuberculosis infection.
Left barely able to breathe, the decision was taken in March to attempt the windpipe reconstruction.
Spanish doctors started the process by taking a 7-centimetre section of windpipe from a deceased donor.
Researchers at the University of Padua, Italy, led by Maria Teresa Conconi, then used detergent and enzymes to purge the donated windpipe of all the donor’s cells. After six weeks, all
that was left was a solid scaffold of connective tissue.
Meanwhile, Birchall and his colleagues in Bristol took the stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and coaxed them in the lab into developing into the cartilage cells that normally
Finally, the patient’s cells were coated onto the donated tracheal scaffold over four days in a special bioreactor built at the Polytechnic of Milan in Italy.
The patient received the finished organ in June at the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, where surgeon Paolo Macchiarini replaced Castillo’s damaged trachea with the newly constructed tissue.
Now, five months later, the patient is fit and well, and there have been no signs yet that her body is rejecting the graft.
The construction of the windpipe is the second organ produced outside the body using stem cells or cells from the patient’s own body.
In 2006, Anthony Atalaat Wake Forest University Medical School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, revealed that his team had fitted seven children with bladders reconstructed from their