The first synthetic windpipe was implanted in a human one month ago in Sweden. The recipient is 36-year-old Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene from Eritrea, who is a PhD student of geology at the University of Iceland.
From Stockholm. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The transplant operation, which took 12 hours, took place at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and was carried out by a team of surgeons led by Professor Paolo Macchiarini from Italy, the BBC reports.
Beyene suffered from cancer and had trouble breathing as a tumor the size of a golf ball had grown inside his respiratory tract.
The key to the latest technique is modeling a structure or scaffold that is an exact replica of the patient's own windpipe, removing the need for a donor organ.
To do this Macchiarini enlisted the help of UK experts who were given 3D scans of Beyene’s respiratory system.
Using these images, the scientists at University College London, led by Dr. Alex Seifalian, were able to craft a perfect copy of his trachea and two main bronchi out of glass.
These were then flown to Sweden and soaked in a solution of stem cells taken from the patient's bone marrow.
After two days, the millions of holes in the porous windpipe had been seeded with the patient's own tissue.
In an interview with the BBC, Beyene said he was excited about returning to Iceland to complete his studies so that he can move back to Eritrea and be reunited with his family, and meet his new three-month-old child.