Spanish surgeons achieve transplant breakthrough


London : In a surgical first, Spanish surgeons have achieved the world’s first whole organ transplant using a windpipe made with the patient’s own stem cells.

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The tissue-engineered transplant resolves the danger of the body’s rejection of foreign organs, making anti-rejection drugs redundant.

The transplant was carried out on Claudia Castillo, a 30-year old mother of two, at the Hospital Clinic of Spain’s Barcelona in July when her windpipe narrowed after she contracted tuberculosis and needed a replacement to save her lung from being infected, BBC said.

To make the new airway, the doctors took a donor windpipe, or trachea, from a patient who had recently died.

They washed the tissues of the donor trachea with chemicals and relocated the organ with Castillo’s own cells in a special chemical process.

The re-populated windpipe, when transplanted, convinced the body that it was a part of it, thereby avoiding the danger of rejection.

Five months on, Castillo is in perfect health, The Lancet reports.

Scientists from Bristol helped to grow the cells for the transplant and the European team believes such tailor-made organs could become the norm.

“Before this, we had been doing this work only on pigs,” Surgeon Professor Paolo Macchiarini of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, Spain, who led the operation, said. “I was scared, but it went well.”

It went so well that four days after the transplant the organ merged with the body indistinguishably.

Castillo is living an active, normal life, and is able to look after her children Johan, 15, and Isabella, four. She can walk up two flights of stairs without getting breathless, medical reports said.

Martin Birchall, professor of surgery at the University of Bristol who helped grow the cells for the transplant, said: “This will represent a huge step in surgery. Surgeons can now see and understand the potential for adult stem cells and tissue engineering to radically improve their ability to treat patients with serious diseases.”

He said that in 20 years time, virtually any transplant organ could be made in this way.

US scientists have already successfully implanted bladder patches grown in the laboratory from patients’ own cells into people with bladder disease.

The European research team, which also includes experts from the University of Padua and the Polytechnic of Milan in Italy, is applying for funding to do windpipe and voice box transplants in cancer patients.