July 8, 2011
First Fully Synthetic Organ Transplant Performed
The first ever fully synthetic organ transplant has been performed by surgeons at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, a 36-year-old male patient suffering from tracheal cancer received a lab-made windpipe that was grown from his own stem cells that did not use human donor tissue, scientists say.
CNN reports that tracheal cancers are extremely rare, with less than 1% of all cancers.
The new technique used by scientists does not need a donor; instead the organ was completely created from scratch.
Three-dimensional CT scans of the patient's windpipe were given to scientists at University College London, where Professor Alex Seifalian and his colleagues developed a glass mold of the patient's windpipe and his two main bronchial tubes.
The structure was then coated with a special polymer that contained millions of tiny holes. After which, the Y-shaped object was sent to Sweden to be "seeded" with stem cells from Beyene's own bone marrow.
Then the structure was placed in a bioreactor for two days, which allowed the stem cells develop and grow.
"Stem cells from the own patient were growing inside and outside," Spanish surgeon Professor Paolo Macchiarini who supervised the process and performed the implant says.
Additionally, cells from the patient's nose were also used to line the replacement windpipe.
Once the cells were able to thrive on their own from the structure, Professor Macchiarini performed a 12 hour operation which involved first removing the tumor and the diseased windpipe, then implanting the new synthetic trachea.
Macchiarini says that the patient's body accepted the new trachea, and he even had a cough reflex two days after the surgery.
This was not Macchiarini's first attempt at implanting an artificial trachea, but it was the first one that did not require a donor organ.
"Thanks to nanotechnology, this new branch of regenerative medicine, we are now able to produce a custom-made windpipe within two days or one week," says Macchiarini.
"This is a synthetic windpipe. The beauty of this is you can have it immediately. There is no delay. This technique does not rely on a human donation."
Three years ago, Claudia Castillo, whose windpipe had been damaged by tuberculosis received an artificial trachea that was created from donor tissue combined with her own stem cells.
Although the results "were quite good," Macchiarini says that "we were still dependent on organ donation, which can take months."
Beyene's implant is different because the procedure, "is the first time that a wholly tissue engineered synthetic windpipe has been made and successfully transplanted, making it an important milestone for regenerative medicine," says Seifalian.
"We expect there to be many more exciting applications for the novel polymers we have developed."
CNN reports that earlier this year, scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine announced that they had engineered five urethras between March 2004 and July 2007. The regenerative medicine scientists used a small piece of each patient's own tissue from the bladder to grow the cells in a lab onto a mesh scaffold shaped like a urethra.
As for Beyene, he is doing well a month after his operation, and hopes to reunite with his wife and family and to see his three-month old baby whom he has yet to meet.
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