Teen gets new windpipe grown from own stem cells

August 4th, 2010 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 4 (IANS) A British teenager has got a new windpipe grown from her own stem cells in a pioneering operation.
The 19-year-old has now been discharged after the procedure in Italy.

She was suffering from a rare form of trachea (windpipe) cancer and would have died without the operation, says a Telegraph report from Italy.

Doctors took tissue from her nose and bone marrow stem cells to create a trachea biologically identical to the original organ.

The girl’s stem cells were grafted on to the cartilage of another trachea, from a donor, which had been stripped of its own cells.

A similar operation was conducted on a British boy in March but in that case the stem cells for the windpipe were grown inside the body. For this latest trachea transplant, stem cells were used to grow a new trachea outside the body.

Because the new trachea contained no cells from another person, no anti-rejection drugs were needed.

Walter Giovannini, from AOU Careggi Hospital, in Florence, Italy, said the British woman was speaking only three or four days after the surgeries July 3 and 13.

“This is a unique solution for a problem that had none, except the death of the patient,” he said.

“Surgeons have been making advances in the transplant of windpipes, but previous cases have mostly focused on patients whose windpipes have been physically damaged due to trauma.

“While trachea cancer is rare, it is very difficult to treat because it is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation and transplants of mechanical devices to replace the windpipe have not been effective.

“It takes two to three months for the stem cells to completely cover the trachea, creating a new organ.

“In the meantime, the windpipe is functional without the cells - acting as a sort of mechanical device before the stem cells transform it into an organ.”

Alessandro Nanni Costa, director of Italy’s National Transplant Centre, said the new technique was extraordinary.

“What is new about this procedure is combining a surgical technique with biotechnology, through the use of stem cells,” he said.

A 31-year-old Czech woman also underwent the same operation. The hospital did not release the patients’ identities or more details about their cases due to privacy concerns.

This is only the third time that any such operation has taken place.

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