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Stem cell surgery a success, say UK doctors

16 August 2010
Appeared in BioNews 571

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'.

Landmark stem cell surgery offers new windpipe transplant hope
BBC News |  6 August 2010
Stem cell surgery for windpipe 'could replace transplant'
BBC News |  6 August 2010
Stem cell transplant could revolutionise operations: surgeon
The Telegraph |  6 August 2010
Stem cell windpipe operation a success
Irish Times |  6 August 2010
30 July 2012 - by Daryl Ramai 
The Irish boy who had pioneering surgery two years ago to implant a new windpipe partially derived from his own stem cells is healthy and back at school. A follow-up study published in The Lancet medical journal reports that Ciaran Finn-Lynch, now 13, is breathing normally and no longer needs anti-rejection medication...
6 June 2012 - by Maren Urner 
A stem cell technique to treat the common bone disease osteonecrosis is being pioneered at Southampton General Hospital in the UK...
21 November 2011 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
The world's first stem cell therapy to repair torn cartilage in the knee has been brought one step closer. Professor Anthony Hollander, co-founder of University of Bristol spin-out Azellon Cell Therapeutics, has just received funding of £65,000 to carry out clinical trials on the use of a patient's own stem cells for knee repair...
5 September 2011 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
Exposure to a youthful environment may help old cells feel alive again – as the work of Professor Xiaodong Chen and co-workers from the University of Texas Health Science Center, USA, suggests...
11 July 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Surgeons have successfully transplanted a synthetic organ into a human for the first time. In a groundbreaking operation, a cancer patient's windpipe was replaced with an artificial replica that had been grown using his own stem cells....
4 October 2010 - by Louise Mallon 
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6 September 2010 - by Gozde Zorlu 
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4 May 2010 - by Ruth Pidsley 
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12 April 2010 - by Charlie McDermott 
Stem cell-derived blood vessels grown in the lab could replace artificial versions currently used in heart bypass surgery, following a recent animal study...
6 April 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
'Natural' breast implants, using stem cells extracted from a woman's own stomach or thigh tissue, could soon be offered to women in the UK following the announcement of a trial beginning in May this year. Although the experimental treatment has already been successfully trialled on a small...
23 November 2008 - by Adam Fletcher 
A Colombian woman has become the world's first recipient of a windpipe grown in part from her own cells. Published in the Lancet journal last week, the team of surgeons from Spain, the UK and Italy, orchestrated the world's first tissue-engineered whole organ transplant. Professor Paolo Macchiarini...
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