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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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By epobirs on 3/23/2010 3:57:23 AM , Rating: 2
You're making a fallacious assumption. This sort of condition can be caused by a variety of things besides genetics. My niece was born with an incomplete esophagus. There is no indication of this being due to a genetic defect rather than an in utero event such as chemical exposure to my sister.

My niece is now 18 and doing pretty well. A section of colon was used to replace her missing tissue but this solution may eventually fail. Having the technology to grow the real thing for her would be a terrific advance.

What if she wasn't born that way? What if she received severe esophageal damage from an accident? Would this make her retroactively defective? You really need to think about how you regard other people. Everyone has genetic features that can go awry if they live long enough, such as a predisposition to Alzheimer's. Do you really think we shouldn't develop treatments for that, just because those people were born with the genetics that cause disability after decades of functional life?


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