Health Team

Woman gets new organ grown from own stem cells

Posted November 24, 2008

People who need new organs can take hope after a Colombian woman underwent a successful transplant of a new windpipe grown from her own stem cells.

Spanish, British and Italian scientists invented the method that has let Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old mother of two living in Barcelona, Spain, breath easy again.

A few months ago, she couldn't push her daughter on a swing without running out of breath.

"It was very hard to have conversations with my family," Castillo said, through a translator. "I had to tell them, 'Now, please, don't talk, because I need to breath.'"

Castillo had suffered from tuberculosis for years, and when her left lung collapsed in March, doctors thought the only solution was to remove it. But Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, head of thoracic surgery at Barcelona's Hospital Clinic, proposed a windpipe transplant instead.

In a revolutionary transplant, doctors gave Claudia a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells.

"This is a landmark in stem-cell biology, because we can say very clearly that we've turned stem-cell biology into stem-cell medicine," Dr. Anthony Hollander, a professor at the University of Bristol, in England, said.

Scientists at Italy's University of Padua stripped off all the cells of a donor windpipe, leaving only a tube of connective tissue. Meanwhile, doctors at the University of Bristol used stem cells from Castillo's bone marrow to create millions of cartilage and tissue cells.

Experts at the University of Milan used a device to put the new cartilage and tissue onto the windpipe. Castillo got the new organ in June and didn't have to take anti-rejection medicine since the new tissue came from her own stem cells.

Doctors said the effort opens the door for all kinds of transplants: "new bowels, new bladders, new blood vessels," said Dr. Martin Birchall, of the University of Bristol.

"It's a very small leap, having shown that we can do it and it's safe to do," Birchall said.

The doctors behind the surgery said they are planning future trachea transplants based on Castillo's success.

"As long as she stays in this health, I will be the happiest doctor in the world," Macchiarini said.


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  • scientistjo Nov 26, 2008

    "just not funded by the federal government" -obiron

    Which means the scientific community has had its hands tied by the Bush administration. Without public funding, universities CANNOT do hES cell work. It amazes me that people argue against ES cell funding by saying the "biggest breakthroughs" have been with adult stem cells. Well of course they have! We're allowed to do research with them! Big breakthroughs will happen with ES cells too once we can study them...AND this will lead to better understanding adult stem cells too.

  • ObiRon Nov 25, 2008

    "...And, this material could be used for scientific research instead, if it had been allowed..."

    Research is allowed on embryonic stem cells, it's just not funded by the federal government...scratch that...your pocket!

  • MyNameIsMud Nov 25, 2008

    "These stem cells that allowed this miracle of modern science to happen were not embryonic stem cells - they were adult stem cells and did not involve killing an innocent life to get"

    kurt, you do know that one of the main sources of embryonic stem cells are fertility clinics where couples go for help with conception? And, the "extra" embryonic material is destroyed and discarded as part of this process anyway. And, this material could be used for scientific research instead, if it had been allowed. Just sayin', since you made such a blanket statement.

  • ObiRon Nov 25, 2008

    The original legislation on federal funding of stem cell research was the Dickey Amendment, which was attached to other HHS funding legislation & signed into law by Bill Clinton.

    President Bush merely decided to continue along with the spirit of this legislation rather than find ways around it. He didn't "pull funding."

    To date, most promising stem cell research revolves around adult stem cells & cord blood, which carry none of the ethical concerns of embryonic stem cell research. This is what the Dickey Amendment was written to address.

    Throughout history the excuse of "Everyone else is doing it!" has never been a good one.

  • kurthesse Nov 25, 2008

    I think if you will check your facts, you will see that Bush pulled funding for embryonic stem cell research. These stem cells that allowed this miracle of modern science to happen were not embryonic stem cells - they were adult stem cells and did not involve killing an innocent life to get. Research with these was not curtailed, it was encouraged.

  • St Ives Nov 25, 2008

    Yes Billo maybe now or at least In Jan, we can come out of the dark ages and get to work on the science the rest of the world has been doing for years. We are eight years behind!

  • bill0 Nov 25, 2008

    It isn't a miracle. This is the result of years of research into stem cells. If the current administration wouldn't have pulled so much funding, we might have had "miracles" like this earlier. This is an important new technology and America is falling behind other countries here. Maybe in the coming years we'll hear of work like this being done in Boston instead of Barcelona.

  • OMG52 Nov 25, 2008

    This is a miracle!!! Best luck to all!!

  • lane817 Nov 25, 2008

    great hope for so many

  • tbird Nov 24, 2008

    This is so great! My 23 year old son had a kidney transplant last year from a living donor, his dad. He was one of the lucky ones that had a close family member who was a very close match. However, he still has to take several anti rejection medications daily. He is doing great, but there is always risk of rejection and eventual failure to this kidney. This adds great hope to all transplant patients and those you are waiting for those very few organs. To be able to add their own dna into their bodies would prevent rejection problems, not to mention the very costly anti rejection medications would not be needed. Be a donor, living or not. You can save a life!