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article imageMan gets world’s first synthetic organ transplant

By Abigail Prendergast     Jul 9, 2011 in Science
Stockholm - An Icelandic man has recieved the world's first completely artificial trachea transplant. Doctors, scientists and researchers hope to use this technology to do more with regenerative science.
A group of doctors have successfully completed the first transplant of an artificial organ known to man. The 36-year-old Icelandic patient received a new trachea, which was made with a scaffold shaped like a windpipe and lined with the man’s own stem cells. Since the artificial organ consisted of his personal cells, researchers said “the patient did not need to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent a rejection of the organ.”
The operation, which took place in Sweden had no need for a donor and the man’s stem cells required just a few days to grow over and around the synthetic trachea. The patient himself had been suffering from late stage tracheal cancer until the ground-breaking surgery gave him a new lease on life when it was conducted on June 9. Even though researchers would like to see how well the results of the operation fare over time.
“This is very amazing news,” Dr. Dao Nguyen, professor and chief of thoracic surgery at the Miami Miller School of medicine said. Even though Nguyen himself had no involvement in the surgery, he said this transplant is nothing short of a breakthrough due to the fact that “it gives physicians and patients renewed hopes for treatment of tumors of the windpipe. Now we can make a windpipe at will."
Scientists have been hard at work attempting to utilize stem cells for regenerating organs for many years now, according to Nguyen. This procedure opens up many doors of opportunity in the field of regenerative medicine.
The purpose of the trachea is to connect the larynx, or voice box, to the lungs. It is basically a tube allowing air to pass through. The windpipe has a much simpler design than the heart or the kidney, and is possibly the reason behind creating a synthetic trachea came first in this field of regenerative technology.
Researchers said they could very well utilize this technique in the creation of other organs in the future.
Since the trachea is such a firm structure, doctors are not able to just cut the cancer out of it. It would be impossible for surgeons to reconnect the two ends after such a procedure, Nguyen said.
Prior to the creation of a synthetic windpipe, tracheal cancer patients only had the options of chemotherapy, radiation or a stent attempting to have the trachea remain open. “But these are short-lived options,” according to Nguyen. The best possible thing that can be done is to have the tumor taken out.
Perhaps in the future this scientific breakthrough will “become more widespread. And patients with airway diseases could have their own tailor-made tracheas. But such an application is likely years away,” Nguyen stated.
Nguyen added that the procedure could potentially be useful for patients whose tracheas have been deformed because of a genetic condition. The researchers behind this operation plan on utilizing this technology for a Korean baby who was born with a distorted windpipe.
More about trachea, Windpipe, Organ transplant, Artificial, Synthetic
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