World’s First Laboratory-Grown Windpipe Transplanted

The first successful transplant of a synthetic windpipe grown from a patient’s stem cells has saved the life of a 36-year-old African man, surgeons announced today.

The patient, Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene of Eritrea, will be released from the hospital tomorrow just a month after being told he would die from tracheal cancer. The tumor growing in his windpipe had become too large to remove and Beyene couldn’t wait for a donated organ. That’s when surgeon Paolo Macchiarini suggested a novel approach using a synthetic organ made from a spongy polymer.

“He was already refused by every surgeon in the world, and they asked me whether there was a solution,” said Macchiarini, a professor at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, in an interview. “He had no other chance, except to die, and therefore we did it.”

Stem cells taken from Beyene’s hip were used to grow cells on the synthetic windpipe, and his body didn’t reject the device, unlike donated tracheas that require immunosuppressive drugs. The 14-hour surgery was performed on June 9, the surgeon said.

Harvard Bioscience Inc. created the synthetic windpipe, according to a statement from the Holliston, Massachusetts-based company.

“This was done essentially on an emergency basis,” said David Green, president of Harvard Bioscience, in a telephone interview today. “The next step is more formal trials.”

Harvard Bioscience rose 23 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $5.73 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.

The application may help children, who lack as many donated organs as adults. The next patient who will receive a similar procedure is a young girl, who was born without a trachea, Macchiarini said.

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