A June operation at a Spanish hospital has resulted in the first successful trachea transplant operation using adult stem cells.
The operation, performed at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, was detailed in Wednesday’s online edition of the British medical journal The Lancet.
The 30-year-old female patient from Colombia, named Claudia Castillo, had suffered a left airway collapse as a result of tuberculosis. A stent implanted to reopen the airway failed to work.
Doctors used a trachea provided by an organ donor as a framework for their novel transplant. Stripping the trachea of cells that would have faced immune system rejection in a transplant, they took adult stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and other cells from the healthy right airway of her trachea.
The cells were then chemically treated in a lab to cause the trachea to regenerate tissue. Since the trachea used the patient’s own stem cells, her body accepted the organ transplant without the use of immune-suppressant drugs.
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini and his colleagues said in a news release that the woman was still doing well four months after surgery, being able to “walk up two flights of stairs, walk 500 meters without stopping, and care for her children.”
“We are terribly excited by these results," he said, according to WebMD Health News.
Expert commentary accompanying the report of the successful transplant said the results should be “highly regarded” but needed more follow-up.
Adult stem cell research lacks the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research, which creates and destroys human embryos to harvest stem cells. Thus far, embryonic stem cell research has failed to produce a single lasting cure, while adult stem research has resulted in scores of cures.