The team of the Italian professor Paolo Macchiarini has realized in the Karolinska University Hospital (Stockholm, Sweden) the first transplant of a synthetic organ of the world. The surgeons have implanted a man of 36 years of age and African origin a artificial trachea created by British scientists, which was then covered with stem cells from the patient himself, who, one month after the operation, is in good health and recovering successfully.

The technique used to perform the intervention does not need a donor and lacks the risk of rejection. The surgeons emphasize that a trachea can be manufactured in a few days. Macchiarini is responsible for another ten trachea transplants, the most important of which was the first transplant of tracheal tissue modified in 2008, to a Spanish woman of 30 years. However, both this transplant and the previous ones required a donor.

The technique used to perform the intervention does not need a donor and lacks the risk of rejection

The key to this last technique is to design a structure or 'scaffold' that is an exact replica of the patient's trachea, eliminating the need for an organ donor. To achieve this, the surgeon counted on the collaboration of British experts, who carried out a 3D scan of the patient and, using these images, the scientists of the University College London They were able to make a perfect copy of their trachea and bronchi. The artificial trachea was sent to Sweden and covered in a solution of mother cells extracted from the patient's spinal cord.

In two days, the millions of holes in the porous trachea were 'sown' with the patient's own tissues, and Dr. Alex Seifalian's team used this fragile structure to create a substitute for the patient, whose own trachea had a tumor that you could not operate.

No delays or rejection

Despite aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the cancer had grown to the size of a golf ball and was making it difficult for the patient to breathe, without a transplant he risked dying. During the 12 hours of operation, Macchiarini removed the entire tumor and replaced the diseased trachea with a customized replica. The cells of the spinal cord and the coating cells taken from his nose, which were also implanted during the operation, were able to divide and grow, converting the inert 'scaffold' shaped like a trachea into an organ identical to a normal one and healthy.

The patient's body accepts this synthetic organ as if it were his, so he will not need to take the drugs to avoid the rejection that other transplant patients have to take. For Professor Macchiarini, this is the real breakthrough. "Thanks to the nanotechnology, this new branch of Regenerative Medicine, we are now able to produce a tailor-made trachea in two days or a week, "he explains. "This is a synthetic trachea. The beauty of this is that you can have it immediately. There are no delays. This technique does not depend on the existence of a donation, "adds the expert, who points out that other organs could be repaired or replaced in the same way.

Now we have to wait if the synthetic trachea will work well in the transplant in the medium-long term.


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