Stem-Cell Laden Windpipe Transplanted In A Cancer Patient

The potential of stem-cells was demonstrated again when a man from Baltimore, Christopher Lyles, aged 30, received an artificial wind-pipe made out of stem-cells. He’s just the second person in history to have received this treatment.

The stem-cell laden windpipe. (Courtesy: University College London)

Removal and replacement

Lyles was suffering from tracheal cancer, or cancer of the windpipe. A team of doctors, led by Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, removed his cancerous trachea and replaced it with one made of a polymer, seeded with stem cells. The stem cells were taken from his own bone marrow and should grow to replace the trachea which he once had.

Dr. Macchiarini, a professor of regenerative surgery at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, was the hero of the occasion, as he was in the only other attempt made before.

The litmus test

A glass mold of the windpipe was made and this was coated with stem cells, taken from the patient’s bone marrow and nose. This was then left in a bioreactor – a device to stimulate cell growth – for two days to grow. The transplant was then ready!

Further growth of cells can happen within the human body – the best bioreactor known. The cancerous trachea was removed and this stem-cell laden trachea was put in.

Stem cell research holds huge potential for medicine. It won’t be any exaggeration to say that stem cell holds the key to medical research and success in the near future.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.