Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, Professor of Regenerative Surgery at Karolinska Institutet, has become famous worldwide due to successfully transplanting bioengineered stem cell-based trachea, composed of both artificial and biological material, in patients. That was an important waypoint on the road to the Big 5 organs, which are far largers and more complex.
Next up is the the esophagus and diaphragm and an experimental attempt to regenerate brain material in mice and rats, he said during his seminar at the scientific AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.
In 2008 and in 2011, a world-class team transplanted an artificial trachea inti a patient using their own stem cells. The result was an artificial windpipe with biological functions. To date, five operations have been carried out using this technique. The future is exciting because transplants this way mean no more organ donor stickers or immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection - and there are no ethical concerns.
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His talk included:
- The plan to operate on a 2 year-old girl in the USA in March. The girl was born without a trachea and has lived her entire life in intensive care, where she breathes through a tube placed in the esophagus and connected directly to the lungs. Without a new trachea, she will never be able to leave the hospital. This will be the first time the procedure is conducted on a small child. It is also the first time the procedure will be conducted on an individual without a trachea - previously, diseased organs have been replaced.
- Plans to transplant the esophagus, an organ that is more complex than a trachea as it has muscles.
- In experimental trials on rats, the research team has investigated the possibility to replace brain matter that has been damaged by serious trauma sustained from events such as traffic accidents, gunshot wounds or surgery. The aim is to replace the lost brain matter with a cultivated stem cell based substance and in turn, avoid neurological damage. The experimental attempt that has been conducted on rats and mice has shown positive results.
- On two occasions, severely injured patients with acute refractory lung failure received stem cell based therapy showing immediate functional improvement. Although both patients died as a consequence of multi-organ failure, the result has provided the first evidence that stem cell therapy can be a promising alternative to restore function in certain damaged organs - without the need for them to be removed and replaced with healthy donor organs.