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Stem Cells Customize Transplant - Surgery A Success

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 2:32 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Stem Cell Research, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Obama, Trachea, Transplants

Stem cells used to customize trachea for patient.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikipedia Commons/ bronchoscopy/ author: National Cancer Institute


It amounts to using a patient’s own stem cells to customize a donated human airway that was then used for implantation.

In this case, physicians at four European universities completed the first successful transplant of a human windpipe.  Using the patients’ own cells avoids the common problem of organ transplantation - rejection.

The article, published in The Lancet, heralds a new age in surgical options and may help push the door open to lifting the U.S. restrictions on stem cell research, favored by President-elect Barak Obama.

The patient in this case lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Claudia Castillo, 30, was hospitalized suffering from a shortness of breath from tuberculosis which caused a failing airway. 

The Universities of Barcelona, Spain, Bristol, England and Padua and Milan in Italy, were involved in the preparation, according to the New York Times. 

Two months after the surgery, Ms. Castillo had a lung function at the high end of a normal range for a young woman.   

“We are terribly excited by these results,” said Prof. Paolo Macchiarini of the University of Barcelona, who performed the operation. “Just four days after transplantation the graft was almost indistinguishable from adjacent normal bronchi.”

The preparation of the new trachea is the key. 

A statement from Bristol University says a segment of trachea was taken from a 51-year-old donor.

Stripped of its donor cells, Ms. Castillo’s bone marrow was grown into cartilage cells and used to “seed” the donated windpipe following incubation of cells.  

Four days after the seeding, the graft was used to replace Ms. Castillo’s windpipe.

The beauty of this procedure is that the patient did not develop antibodies to her graft, which typically occurs in organ transplantation.  Ms. Castillo has made a full recovery and is not on any immune-suppressive drugs.

Martin Birchall, Professor of Surgery at the University of Bristol, added: “Surgeons can now start to see and understand the very real potential for adult stem cells and tissue engineering to radically improve their ability to treat patients with serious diseases. We believe this success has proved that we are on the verge of a new age in surgical care”.

This summer’s World Stem Cell Summit, concluded with the prevailing sense that the industry still faces lengthy approval times, high development costs, and skeptical investors.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that venture capital firms have invested $1.1 billion over the last dozen years in companies that perform an average of $85 million annually in stem-cell work. 

No company in the US can sell stem cell products until the FDA approves the therapy and as yet, none has received that approval. #

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