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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 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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