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World's first synthetic organ transplant

8th July 2011

Scientists in London have created an artificial windpipe which has allowed surgeons to carry out the world’s first synthetic organ transplant.

surgeonatwork

The artificial windpipe was coated in stem cells from the patient ahead of the operation which was carried out by Professor Paolo Macchiarini from Italy at the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.

The windpipe can be made within days and because there is no need for a donor, any risk of the organ rejection is removed.

The operation was carried out a month ago on a 36-year-old patient who is said to be doing well.

To create the windpipe, a structure that is an exact replica of the patient’s own windpipe was created. Using the detailed images, the scientists at University College London were able to craft a perfect copy of the patient’s trachea and two main bronchi out of glass.

This was then flown to Sweden and soaked in a solution of stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow.

During a 12-hour operation Professor Macchiarini removed all of the tumour and the diseased windpipe and replaced it with the made replica.

The bone marrow cells and lining cells taken from the patient’s nose, which were also implanted during the operation, are able to divide and grow, turning the inert windpipe scaffold into an organ indistinguishable from a normal healthy one.

The patient would have died if not for the transplant. His body will accept the organ as his own and will not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

 

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