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Man's New Windpipe is the World's First Synthetic Organ Transplant

80beatsBy Valerie RossJuly 11, 2011 8:01 PM


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The synthetic trachea, just before implantation

What's the News: An African man's new trachea is the world's first synthetic organ to be transplanted. Made from a polymer scaffold coated with the patient's own cells, the windpipe seems to be working out well, more than a month after the surgery. How the Heck:

What's the Context:

  • Earlier windpipe transplants have also used tissues derived from the patients' stem cells---but the tissues were grown on donor tracheae, not artificial scaffolds, meaning that a suitable donor was still needed for every transplant.

  • Building new organs from only a patient's cells and manmade materials, however, could eliminate the need for donor organs altogether, a major benefit given the chronic shortage of organs and the number of patients who die while waiting for a transplant.

  • This transplant was also amazingly fast---two days to grow a trachea!---which is particularly good news for patients who are critically ill.

The Future Holds:

Image: University College London

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