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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 Jaybus on 3/22/2010 1:37:28 PM , Rating: 2
There is a difference between evolution and technological advance. The evolutionary advantage is that humans have a cognitive ability vastly superior to other species. We pass down knowledge and technology to the next generation, and each generation adds to the knowledge base. We have been doing so for hundreds of thousands of years. We know from mitochondrial DNA that humans have been knocked down to near extinction by past natural disasters. If such would happen again, most of the knowledge and technology would be lost, yet humans would still have their cognitive ability and would immediately start rebuilding the knowledge base all over again. However, such a natural disaster could also bring about the rise of a new species that is better at technology than we are, and advances faster that we do. We could be supplanted by such a new species. So I maintain that we have not in any way stepped outside of the constraints of evolution. To say otherwise is to say that we are the ultimate result of evolution, or the "master species", and I can find no reason to believe that is the case.


By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is a difference between evolution and technological advance.

Yes, technology advances far, far faster than evolution has to date.

quote:
If such would happen again, most of the knowledge and technology would be lost

That is not at all a given, and if it were to happen, that would simply be a change in the environment, ie - the environment's adapting to suit us simply diminishes.

quote:
yet humans would still have their cognitive ability and would immediately start rebuilding the knowledge base all over again.

In other words, humans would immediately start adapting their environment to suit themselves. Again.

quote:
However, such a natural disaster could also bring about the rise of a new species that is better at technology than we are,

One doesn't need a natural disaster for that to happen. If a species comes along that is better at adapting its environment then we are, that is not an aspect of evolution, but technology. And as you aptly pointed out, "There is a difference between evolution and technological advance[sic]".

quote:
So I maintain that we have not in any way stepped outside of the constraints of evolution. To say otherwise is to say that we are the ultimate result of evolution

Rubbish and nonsense. I only said that we can change our genes faster than our environment can. That is why we have stepped outside of the historical trends of evolution.


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