November 19, 2008

Doctors Use Stem Cells For First Trachea Transplant

An international research team reported on Wednesday that doctors have given a Colombian woman a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells.

The donor organ was tailor-made with her own stem cells in laboratories across Europe to prevent her body from rejecting it.

"This technique has great promise," said Dr. Eric Genden, who did a similar transplant in 2005 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Genden said if the transplant remains successful the procedure could become a new standard of treatment.

"The probability this lady will have a rejection is almost zero percent," said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, head of thoracic surgery at the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona who performed the transplant.

"The patient is enjoying a normal life with no signs of rejection after four months."

The patient, 30-year-old Claudia Castillo, sought help after a case of tuberculosis destroyed part of her trachea and left her with breathing difficulties, prone to infections and unable to care for her two children.

The researchers said her only option other than the experimental surgery was for doctors to remove part of her lung, which would have seriously degraded her quality of life.

"It isn't just an issue of life, it is an issue of quality of life," said Martin Birchall, a surgeon at the University of Bristol, who helped treat Castillo.

The doctors took a sample of Castillo's bone marrow from her hip and used the bone marrow's stem cells to create millions of cartilage and tissue cells to cover and line the windpipe.

Experts then used a device to put the new cartilage and tissue onto the windpipe. The new windpipe was transplanted into Castillo in June.

Dr. Allan Kirk of the American Society of Transplantation said they have created a functional, biological structure that can't be rejected. "It's an important advance, but constructing an entire organ is still a long way off."

After four months Castillo has shown no signs of rejection and is not taking any immune-suppressing drugs, which can cause side effects like high blood pressure, kidney failure and cancer.

"I was scared at the beginning," Castillo said. "I am now enjoying life and am very happy that my illness has been cured."

Images Courtesy Hospital Clinic of Barcelona


On the Net: