An 11-year-old boy has returned home after becoming the first child to undergo a pioneering surgery which used his own stem cells to rebuild his windpipe. The operation, which took place in March this year at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, has been hailed as 'a success'.
Ciaran Finn-Lynch was born with Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis: a condition which results in a narrow windpipe, making breathing difficult. Doctors took stem cells from his bone marrow and injected them into a donor windpipe, before transplanting it to replace Ciaran's own windpipe. By using stem cells from his own body, doctors predicted that the donor windpipe was less likely to be rejected by his own body. Four weeks ago, the operation was deemed successful after it was shown that blood supply had returned to the windpipe.
Martin Birchall, Professor of Laryngology from University College London, said: 'For decades surgeons have been trying to get a satisfactory solution to the problem of adults and children whose windpipes are destroyed by disease or problems at birth'. Conventional methods to help people like Ciaran include the use of metal splints, or stents, but surgeons had been trying to find a more natural solution.
When he was two years old, Ciaran underwent a major operation to reconstruct his airway using a metal stent, but it soon eroded and failed. When this happened again on repeating the operation, the idea of a transplant was raised.
'This is a completely new approach,' said Professor Birchall, adding: 'This is the first time this has ever been done in a child. We did a similar operation to a young woman in Spain in 2008. She is now working full-time, looking after her children and doing very well. This is very different and we can't predict exactly what is going to happen but we can say things have gone better than we expected'.
'It's giving him a better airway than he has ever had before. He is left with a healthy organ made with his own stem cells which in a way is a kind of miracle'. Professor Martin Elliott, of Great Ormond Street Hospital, said the transplant team was 'delighted' that Ciaran could now go home.
'The treatment offers hope to many whose major airways were previously considered untreatable or irreplaceable,' Professor Elliott added. 'We will continue to work with our colleagues in regenerative medicine throughout the world to ensure we can continue to improve both the science and treatment options'.