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Sunday 27th May 2018

Woman receives engineered windpipe

24th November 2008

A 30-year-old tuberculosis patient in Colombia has become the first person to receive an organ grown in the lab.


Claudia Castillo received a new windpipe constructed from a combination of donated tissue and her own cells in an operation in June.

Doctors used stem cells harvested from the woman's bone marrow to populate a stripped-down section of windpipe received from a donor, which was then transplanted into her body.

Team member Martin Birchall, professor of surgery at the University of Bristol said the construction of the new windpipe heralded the beginning of a new age in surgical care.

Adult stem cells and tissue engineering could now radically improve the ability of surgeons to treat patients, Birchall added.

Castillo underwent the surgical procedure after suffering a collapse of the tracheal branch of her windpipe leading to her left lung following a severe tuberculosis infection.

Doctors decided in March to attempt the reconstruction, because she was barely able to breathe.

First, a Spanish team took a seven-centimetre section of windpipe from a deceased donor. This was cleaned and stripped of all cells using detergent and enzymes by researchers at the University of Padua, Italy, led by Maria Teresa Conconi.

Meanwhile, in Bristol, Birchall and colleagues were cultivating cartilage cells that normally coat windpipes from stem cells taken from Castillo's bone marrow.

Technicians at the Polytechnic of Milan in Italy built a special bioreactor, using it to coat the tracheal scaffold with the patient's own cells in an operation that took more than four days.

Castillo received the finished organ in June at the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, where surgeon Paolo Macchiarini used it to replace the damaged tissue.

No signs of rejection have appeared, five months after the operation, and Castillo was said to be fit and well.

This procedure is only the second time an organ produced outside the body using stem cells or other of the patient's cells has been grafted into a patient in a transplant operation.

In 2006, Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University Medical School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, revealed that his team had fitted seven children with bladders reconstructed from their own tissue.


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