A team of scientists based at the Royal Free Hospital have played a major role in a world-first transplant operation.
For the first time in history, a patient has been given a new man-made windpipe (trachea) created from a synthetic scaffold seeded with his own stem cells.
The scaffold, used in the operation on an Icelandic patient at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, was created using a material known as nanocomposite polymer - designed, developed and constructed by Professor Alexander Seifalian and his team from the UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science at the Royal Free Hospital, including Claire Crowley and Arnold Darbyshire.
Professor Seifalian said: “The operation was performed by Professor Paolo Macchiarini, who has previously performed successful transplants of tissue engineered windpipes, but on those occasions the windpipes used were taken from organ donors and then reseeded with the patient’s own stem cells.
“What makes this procedure different is it’s the first time that a wholly tissue engineered synthetic windpipe has been made and successfully transplanted, making it an important milestone for regenerative medicine. Another major benefit of this procedure is that we were able to tailor make the windpipe to the exact shape and measurements needed, using the dimensions from the patient’s CT scan.
“With this procedure, patients who suffer from tracheal cancer would not have to wait for a suitable donor organ, meaning they could benefit from earlier surgery and have a greater chance of cure. We also expect that we can use the material we have developed to create other organs in the future.”
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