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World’s first tissue-engineered trachea implant still a success 5 years later

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Five years after the world’s first tissue-engineered trachea implant, researchers are declaring the procedure is still a success, with the patient reporting good quality of life and minimal complications, Medical Xpress reported.

The patient, a then-30-year-old mother of two from Colombia, received the implant in 2008 after her own trachea collapsed due to complications from tuberculosis. The implant was created using cells from the trachea of a human donor combined with cartilage cells derived from the patient’s own stem cells and epithelial cells taken from the patient’s trachea.

Ten days after the groundbreaking procedure, the patient was discharged from the hospital. After four months, the transplant appeared to be successful, and the patient did not require any immunosuppressive drugs.

In a study published in The Lancet, researchers report that five years after the initial transplant, the recipient is still doing well and enjoying a normal life. Testing has also revealed that the patient has good lung function and isn’t demonstrating any immunological complications, according to Medical Xpress.

Although scarring on the graft required a stent to be inserted six months after the procedure, the patient is no longer experiencing any symptoms of this minor complication, researchers reported.

"These results confirm what we – and many patients– hoped at the time of the original operation: that tissue engineered transplants are safe and effective in the long term,” said Paolo Macchiarini from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, who operated on the patient.

Macchiarini noted that he and his fellow researchers hope to improve upon the procedure in the future to avoid complications like the minor scarring seen in the patient. They also hope to continue with clinical trials in order to further demonstrate that this type of procedure can be integrated into routine practice.

According to MedPage Today, several other successful trachea implants have been completed since 2008, including one on a 2-year-old South Korean girl born without a windpipe and another on a 36-year-old cancer patient.

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