October 8, 2012
Lab-grown body parts are plentiful in science fiction, but they haven’t yet made it into the everyday practices of real-life surgeons. A groundbreaking surgery in Sweden might change that after a patient received a transplanted trachea that was grown from his very own stem cells. In an incredible cooperation between surgeons at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden and University College in London, a man whose own windpipe was ruined by cancer was the recipient of the first donor-less transplant in June 2011.
The surgeons started off by creating 3-D scans of the patient’s windpipe. Researchers at the University College in London then created a glass scaffold that was an exact replica of the original windpipe. The scaffold was soaked in the patient’s own stem cells from his bone marrow, which quickly took hold and created a brand new trachea in just two days. Thanks to the fact that the trachea was made from his own stem cells and did not come from a donor, there was no chance of rejection by his body and no need for the typical anti-rejection drugs needed by other transplant recipients. The best news to come out of this milestone is that people who desperately need organ transplants may not have to wait for a suitable donor in the future; this technology could be used to grow almost anything they need in a lab within just a few days.