So Far So Good For Artificial Trachea Transplantee

Artificial trachea transplant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) An artificial windpipe is giving real hope to one patient. A follow-up on the first artificial trachea transplant recipient shows the patient living a normal and happy life.

Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene had a life-threatening tumor that was beginning to prevent him from breathing. Surgical removal of the tumor would not be enough--a trachea replacement was needed. Doctors and surgeons were able to create an artificial trachea and implant it into Mr. Beyene.

The success of this procedure could lead to new developments for life-threatening tumors without needing to rely on a human donor.

"Ask your doctor about new treatments."

The artificial trachea was developed by Professor Paolo Macchiarini from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden with the help of the University College in London, England. The two teams first imaged Mr. Beyene's trachea and then created a glass mold of the trachea. Stem cells from Mr. Beyene were then inserted into the artificial trachea, making it possible to use in the human body.

Five months after the surgery, Mr. Beyene is studying for his PhD in geology and living with his wife and two children. Mr. Beyene spent one month in the hospital for monitoring purposes and another month in rehab. After those two months, Mr. Beyene had been healthy and functioning normally on a daily basis.

Additionally, Professor Macchiarini was involved with a second artificial trachea transplant, this time using nanofibers to create the artificial trachea. This was seen as a significant improvement and could lead to the artificial transplant becoming a viable option as a surgical procedure.

For Professor Macchiarini and his team of researchers, the artificial trachea provides two distinct advantages compared to normal transplants. There is no need for a human donor, meaning there is no list or wait period while a donor is found.

Secondly, the transplant uses the patient's own stem cells, so there is not fear that the body will reject the transplant, thus eliminating the need for drugs that suppress the immune system.

Long-term success needs to be evaluated before widespread clinical use. Ideal conditions, such as what material to use for the artificial transplant and what stem cells are best to use need to be evaluated, according to Dr. Harald C. Ott and Dr. Douglas J. Mathisen, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA .

New studies can help improve the artificial trachea and find the best ways to implement the transplant. Ideal candidates for an artificial trachea transplant can be identified as well as  diseases that are best suited for treatment with an artificial implant.

For now, this is just one successful, but optimistic, example. More research is needed before it can be used clinically. 

This study was published in the November edition of The Lancet.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 25, 2011
Last Updated:
November 30, 2011