The time when body organs become replaceable is just around the corner. Soon enough, scientists will be able to extend the life span of a human being dozens of years through his or her stem cells.
The first step has been taken already, with a 10-year-old boy receiving a revolutionary tracheal transplant in London, at the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
An organ that will grow inside the boy’s body through his stem cells has substituted the windpipe, bendable tube connecting the nose, mouth and lungs.
The boy was born with a condition known as long segment tracheal stenosis, which is a weakening condition that leaves the person with an airway of 1mm in width, putting him at risk of suffocation and death.
Previously, the boy was treated with stents, but these collapsed, interrupted the airflow and harmed the boy’s aorta. After the child could barely breathe, his doctors called Paolo Macchiarini, at Careggi University Hospital in Florence, who decided to try a dangerous but bold procedure: re-growing the organ inside the boy’s body using stem cells.
Macchiarini’s team took a donor’s windpipe and removed all cells to prevent immune response. The tissue was successfully implanted after having been seeded with the child’s stem cells and with a blend of chemicals that promote growth. The patient responded well, he breathed normally and started talking right after the procedure.
This is truly a milestone in more than one way, because besides the implications it has for human life and health, this is the first time a child has received stem-cell organ treatment, it is the longest airway that has been substituted ever, and by letting the boy’s own cells re-grow the tissue, the costs were lowered considerably, by tens of thousands of pounds.
This success opens the door for stem-cell organ transplants to be performed in other medical facilities besides highly specialized hospitals, and although it won’t replace conventional transplants shortly, it most certainly can be applied to some aspects of these types of surgeries.
Regenerative medicine must become an important part of healthcare, and things are moving in that direction. The next possible and intrepid step will be to perform larynx or esophagus stem cell transplants.
For now, doctors are waiting to see how the boy further responds to the transplant and if his recovery is as successful as expected. If he recovers completely, as it is believed he will, we will have moved a step closer to immortality.
Talk to your life sciences consulting firm to learn about the latest developments in the pharmaceutical industry and to find the best ways to take advantage of the stem cell miracles that are unfolding around the world today.
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