Wednesday, 19 Nov, 2008 Health & Fitness
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Scientists Replaced Damaged Trachea With Windpipe Made from Patient's Stem Cells

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A woman from Columbia became the first person in the world to receive a windpipe tissue built from donated tissue mixed with her own stem cells, which were gathered from her bone marrow.

The stem cells were used to fill a stripped-down section of windpipe that was obtained from a donor. The windpipe was then transplanted into the woman's body.

One of members of the team that worked on the creation of the windpipe tissue, Martin Birchall, who is also the professor of surgery at the University of Bristol, UK, mentioned: "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. We believe this success has proved that we are on the verge of a new age in surgical care."

Columbia's 30-year-old Claudia Castillo, had a dangerous tuberculosis infection that caused the collapse of the tracheal branch of the woman's windpipe that led to her left lung, which could barely breathe. Spanish doctors decided to take a fragment of windpipe from a deceased donor. Afterwards, a team of scientists led by Maria Teresa Conconi at the University of Padua, Italy, applied a detergent and enzymes to clean the donated windpipe of all foreign cells. In six weeks researchers managed to obtain a hard scaffold of connective tissue, reports NewScientist.

In the meantime, the team of scientists from Bristol obtained stem cells from Castillo's bone marrow and then coaxed them in their laboratory into developing into cartilage cells that usually cover windpipes. Over a period of four days, the cells covered the scaffold in a special bioreactor that was constructed by specialists at the Polytechnic of Milan, Italy.

Doctors at the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, performed the final stage of the successful experiment by replacing the damaged trachea with a newly built one. Five months later the patient feels fine and there are no signs of rejection from the body of the new tissue.

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