First successful transplantation of a synthetic windpipe seeded with
patient's own stem cells
8 July 2011
Surgical history was made in Stockholm last month when a
patient was given a new trachea made from a synthetic scaffold seeded
with his own stem cells.
The patient, a 36-year old man, is well on the way to full
recovery and was due to be discharged from the hospital today.
The operation was performed on June 9th 2011 at Karolinska
University Hospital in Huddinge, Stockholm, by professor Paolo
Macchiarini, of Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska
Institutet, and colleagues.
Professor Macchiarini led an international team including
professor Alexander Seifalian from University College London, who
designed and built the nanocomposite tracheal scaffold and Harvard
Bioscience (Boston, USA) who produced a specifically designed
bioreactor used to seed the scaffold with the patient's own stem
The surgical team performing the operation
The cells were grown on the scaffold inside the bioreactor for
two days before transplantation to the patient. Because the cells
used to regenerate the trachea were the patient's own, there has
been no rejection of the transplant and the patient is not taking
The patient had been suffering from late stage tracheal cancer.
Despite maximum treatment with radiation therapy, the tumor had
reached approximately 6 cm in length and was extending to the main
bronchus. It was progressing and almost completely blocked the
Since no suitable donor windpipe was available, the
transplantation of the synthetic tissue engineered trachea was
performed as the last possible option for the patient, referred by
professor Tomas Gudbjartsson of Landspitali University Hospital
(Reykjavik, Iceland), who was also part of the surgical team.
The synthetic tissue-engineered windpipe
The successful transplantation of tissue engineered synthetic
organs, referred to as regenerative medicine, could open new and
very promising therapeutic possibilities for the thousands of
patients who suffer from tracheal cancer or other conditions that
destroy, block or constrict the airway.
Professor Macchiarini has previously performed successful
transplants of tissue engineered tracheas, but on those occasions
the tracheas used were taken from organ donors and then reseeded
with the patient's own stem cells.
Last year MTB Europe reported on such an operation that
was performed on a child at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.
World's first windpipe transplant and regeneration in a child
Transplantations of tissue engineered windpipes with synthetic
scaffolds in combination with the patient's own stem cells as a
standard procedure, means that patients will not have to wait for a
suitable donor organ. This would be a substantial benefit for
patients since they could benefit from earlier surgery and have a
greater chance of cure. In addition to treating adult patients;
tissue engineered synthetic trachea transplants would, not least, be
of great value for children, since the availability of donor
tracheas is much lower than for adult patients.