An intriguing major development in organ transplantation was announced by Sweden and the UK who worked jointly on an amazing synthetic organ transplant for a terminal cancer patient. The patient has been closely monitored for the past month and is due to be released from the hospital tomorrow.
The news is startling because it demonstrates the amazing evolution of the transplant process. Imagine a transplant process where the recipient does not rely upon the fatality of a donor.
The successful transplant was performed to the benefit of a 36-year old cancer patient. London scientists created an artificial windpipe in a fascinating process filmed by BBC news. The windpipe was sent to Sweden.
Italy’s Paolo Macchiari led the team of surgeons who delivered the world’s first synthetic organ transplant. Macchiari has successfully performed 10 other windpipe transplants that did require a donor.
The success of the transplant was truly a joint effort. The operation relied on the modeling of a precise replica of the recipient’s windpipe. This replica was shaped by the scientists at the University College London who used 3D scans of the patient’s windpipe to replicate the original windpipe.
The model was carefully transferred to a surgical team under Macchiari’s direction in Sweden. Stem cells were taken from the patient’s bone marrow. The model was soaked in a solution of the stem cells for two days.
By that time, millions of holes in the porous model seeded with the patient’s own tissue. Dr. Alex Seifalian’s team molded the fragile windpipe to fit precisely in place. The patient’s windpipe was destroyed by inoperable, cancerous tumor.
The recipient of the world’s first synthetic transplant is a 36-year old African geology student named Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene. The recipient is pursuing his PhD in geology in Iceland. The bone marrow stem cells and lining cells were taken from Beyene’s nose.
Not only is the windpipe unnoticeable as a synthetic organ but it also requires no immunosuppressants because the body has accepted the new synthetic organ.
Professor Macchiari reported that this was a significant breakthrough directly attributable to progress in nanotechnology. “Thanks to nanotechnology, this new branch of regenerative medicine, we are now able to produce a custom- made windpipe within two days or one week… The beauty of this is you can have it immediately. There is no delay. This technique does not require a human donor,” said Macchiari.
Beyene responded that he was “very scared” but that his condition was life or death. Again, he walks out headed to Iceland tomorrow. Unbelievable!
From my own experience, I volunteered for stem cell research at Columbia Presbyterian but was rejected due to my earlier open-heart surgery.
No matter how you slice the cake, this transplant should signal a beacon of hope for all those waiting or who will wait in the future. As many advances as the transplant surgery has made, this is certainly the direction of the future.