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A boy in England has received the first organ transplant that will grow inside the patient's body using their own stem cells.   (Source: PA)
The era of replaceable organs is drawing near

Mankind is close to defying nature and extending human beings' life spans tens of years by using replacement organs.  The key to this progress is stem cells, the same kind of cells that differentiated to form your original tissues.

In England, a 10-year-old boy received a groundbreaking tracheal transplant at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.  The windpipe -- a flexible tube that connects the nose, mouth and lungs -- was replaced with an organ that will grow inside the boy's own body using the boy's own stem cells.

The story began when the boy was born with long segment tracheal stenosis, a debilitating condition that leaves the victim with a 1 mm wide airway, which can lead to suffocation and death.  Doctors tried to treat the condition with stents, but the stents collapsed, cutting off the boy's airflow and damaging his aorta.  After the boy almost stopped breathing, his doctors contacted Paolo Macchiarini, from Careggi University Hospital, Florence.

Macchiarini decided to try an ambitious and risky approach that had never before been successfully performed -- regrowing the organ in the boy's own body using stem cells.  Leading a Italian, British and Spanish team, the researchers first took a donor windpipe and stripped it of all cells to prevent immune response.

The procedure has begun with a successful implant.  Seeded with the boy's stem cells and a cocktail of growth-promoting chemicals, the tissue was implanted into the boy last Week.  The boy responded well, breathing normally and speaking soon after the operation.

Professor Martin Birchall, head of translational regenerative medicine at University College London called the procedure a "milestone moment" and pointed out that by allowing the boy's own cells to regrow the tissue, the cost was dramatically lowered to "tens of thousands pounds rather than hundreds of thousands."  

He states, "We believe it’s a real milestone.  It is the first time a child has received stem-cell organ treatment, and it’s the longest airway that has ever been replaced. I think the technique will allow not just highly specialized hospitals to carry out stem-cell organ transplants. We don’t think it’s going to replace conventional transplants just yet, but already there are certain aspects of conventional transplant surgery it can be applied to. We need to think about how to make regenerative medicine a key part of our healthcare."

The work follows other significant work two years ago in Spain where Claudia Castillo, 30, became the first person to receive a portion of trachea regrown with stem cells.  That transplant, however, was a much shorter tract of trachea and was much more expensive as it was grown outside the body in a special bioreactor.

The researchers are looking forward to advancing the treatment aggressively, perhaps next performing larynx or oesophagus stem cell transplants.

Despite this optimism, it still remains to be seen whether the boy's recovery is as successful as anticipated.  Given Castillo's success, though, the boy is expected to make a full recovery.  And with that recovery mankind will move one step closer to immortality.

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RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By MozeeToby on 3/22/2010 11:51:38 AM , Rating: 4
So? If we can keep someone alive today, by the time they have children 20 years down the road we'll be able to treat the condition easily. By the time their children have children we'll probably be able to snip out the problem DNA and replace it with something that works better.

Why reduce human variability for the sake of Eugenics? There is no 'ideal' human genome and I for one certainly wouldn't let a child suffer and die just to try to keep humanity near some imagined ideal. The line between letting 'imperfect' people die and actively killing them off is not as thick as you might think, and it's been crossed once or twice before.

By ClownPuncher on 3/22/2010 1:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
Populism, once again dirtying its hands with "the greater good".

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By Kurz on 3/22/2010 1:40:35 PM , Rating: 4
There is not about imagined Ideal. Its about weeding out genetically inferer genes. He has a point it is weaking our speices genetics by saving everyone even when their genetic make up is the cause of their life threatening illness.

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By MozeeToby on 3/22/2010 2:05:12 PM , Rating: 3
There is no such thing as an 'inferior' gene. Many genes that cause problems in some people are useful in others. Sickle Cell Anemia damages the quality of life for thousands of people in the developed world, but it saves the lives of millions of others by granting near immunity to malaria. The genes that cause schizophrenia or other mental issues often also lead to increased creativity and higher IQ.

But the real problem is where you try to decide one disease is caused by someone's genes but another disease isn't. Cancer can be genetic, level of susceptibility to HIV is genetic, depression and suicidal tendencies can be genetic. Should we just let everyone who doesn't have a perfect immune system go without medical treatment to protect some imaginary concept of superior and inferior genes?

Besides, the most healthy gene pool is a large, diverse one. I'd rather humanity's gene pool consist of all the current human race than the 100,000 healthiest people because the diversity of the larger gene pool is what allows it to survive.

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:06:51 PM , Rating: 1
"There is no such thing as an 'inferior' gene."

I beg to differ. Some genes result in embryos that fail to even reach term, or die soon after birth, despite our best efforts. Are those not inferior?

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
Just a gene in the wrong place at the wrong time. The genes that give a fish gills instead of lungs would kill a human. Are those "bad genes"?

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:43:40 PM , Rating: 3
"Are those "bad genes"?"

In a human-- yes. Would you choose your children to be born with them?

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By Creig on 3/22/2010 2:23:59 PM , Rating: 5
Tell that to Stephen Hawking.

By karielash on 3/24/2010 3:58:18 AM , Rating: 2

This deserves a 6.

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By NicodemusMM on 3/22/2010 8:38:15 PM , Rating: 1
Our inferior genes make us the species we are with the immense capabilities we have. The opposable thumb was a genetic defect at one point... as were many other traits we value. Are you so wise that you can see our evolution 10k years down the road? Can you determine with 100% accuracy what will be useful later? Didn't think so. Neither can anyone else. Assuming we make it that long we may be thankful people with your mentality can't make decisions for everyone.

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/23/2010 12:11:28 AM , Rating: 5
"The opposable thumb was a genetic defect at one point"

A defect with immediate survival value...which is why it persisted. Are you really going to compare that to a child born with a hole in their heart, no cerebral cortex, and their hanging liver outside their body?

Every gene we have was a mutation -- and thus technically a defect -- at some point. That's given. But to step from that to the belief that no genetic flaw, no matter how serious, should ever be addressed, is a vast leap of illogical, pseudo-religious faith.

RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By NicodemusMM on 3/24/2010 6:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ok.. maybe I should have centered on the core of my statement to avoid "a vast leap of illogical, pseudo-religious faith."

My point was that when you start weeding out genetically inferior genes you have to also address the differences in what people would consider inferior.

By porkpie on 3/24/2010 11:29:21 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, agreed. And allowing the government to make those decisions for individuals is, frankly, a region I hope we never traverse.

Allowing individuals, though, to make their own choice in this matter, is both moral and desired.

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