Stem Cells Help British Boy Grow New Windpipe

A British boy successfully underwent a groundbreaking operation involving the transplant of a windpipe which is being regenerated inside his body using his own stem cells, The Times of London reported Saturday.

Scientists described the operation, carried out on Monday at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, as a "milestone moment" in the development of techniques that could allow people to rebuild damaged or transplanted organs inside their bodies.

The replacement trachea - the bony tube that connects the nose, mouth and lungs - was stripped of the donor's cells to leave a scaffold which was then laced with the child's stem cells. The boy, aged 10, then received the transplant hours later. The stem cells are now reconstructing the airway and ensuring it is not rejected by his immune system.

The operation was the first to use stem cells with the scaffold inside the body. It was also the first entire windpipe transplant to be carried out on a child and the first to involve the entire length of the trachea.

The doctors who carried out the procedure said the technique reduced greatly the risk of rejection of the new trachea, as the child’s stem cells would not generate any immune response. They said the child, who was not being identified, was recovering well and able to speak.

Professor Martin Elliott, who led the surgery, said the technique was a breakthrough because once the scaffold was ready it could be carried out in a matter of hours.

The scientists added that because the regeneration occured in the human body rather than a laboratory, it cost "tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds." They said they hoped it would speed the course of organ regeneration, with the possibility of moving into operations involving the larynx or esophagus.

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