Lab-made windpipe saves life of cancer patient
Dec 5, 2011, 3:06 GMT
London/Stockholm - A cancer patient who received a tailor-made bio-artificial trachea in June is leading a largely normal life again and writing his doctoral dissertation, the surgical team from Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital has reported.
According to a report in the medical journal The Lancet, the transplanted structure, seeded with the 36-year-old Eritrean man's own stem cells, has saved his life and allowed him to get acquainted with his youngest son, now aged 7. The family is living in Iceland.
The man was suffering from an advanced tracheal tumour that had grown to the size of a golf ball and begun to restrict his breathing despite intensive radiation therapy. A transplantation was necessary because removing the tumour also involved removing an essential section of windpipe.
No donor organ was available, so Karolinska doctors fashioned an artificial scaffold with help from scientists in Britain, then seeded it with the patient's own stem cells via a bioreactor for 36 hours. After removing the tumour, they transplanted the lab-made organ in a 12-hour operation. It was the world's first transplant of an artificial trachea seeded with stem cells, Karolinska said.
The surgical team, led by Paolo Maccharini, said the man had spent a month in hospital and another month in rehabilitation before his release. Maccharini and his team had previously transplanted donor tracheas that had been purged of the donors' cells and seeded with the patients' stem cells to prevent their immune systems from rejecting the foreign organs.
Researchers hope that the technique of 'tissue engineering' will open new avenues for transplantations. They could particularly benefit child patients, doctors say, because few donor tracheas are available to children.
Maccharini and his team also reported in The Lancet that they had recently transplanted a bio-artificial trachea seeded with stem cells into a second cancer patient, a 30-year-old American. The scaffold was made of nanofibres, they said, and thus represented a further advance from their transplantation in June.
In an editorial review of the publication, physicians Harald Ott from Massachusetts General Hospital and Douglas Mathisen from Harvard Medical School cautioned that long-term research was needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of bio-artificial organs. They said questions such as the ideal scaffold material and the optimum cell source had to be answered before broad clinical application could begin.