Man’s Life Saved With Artificial Trachea Using Stem Cells

Bioethics   David Prentice, Ph.D.   Jan 16, 2012   |   11:36AM    Washington, DC

A 30-year-old Baltimore man is now back home recuperating from surgery in Sweden that implanted an artificial trachea made with his own adult stem cells.

Christopher Lyles was diagnosed with inoperable tracheal cancer. He found Italian Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who is a Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who has constructed and transplanted replacement tracheas, using the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells to build the new tissue. Lyles traveled to Sweden in November to have the surgery; he returned home this week with his new implanted trachea.

In a telephone interview, Lyles said he was “feeling good”, and “just thankful for a second chance at life.” He was looking forward to watching his 4-year-old daughter grow up.

“He went home in very good shape,” said Dr. Macchiarini. Macchiarini said that Mr. Lyles adult stem cells were placed onto the synthetic windpipe scaffold and grown in a bioreactor for two days, then transplanted into his body after removal of his tumorous trachea. The cells continue to grow and differentiate after implantation into the patient. Macchiarini pointed out:

“We’re using the human body as a bioreactor to promote regeneration.”

Because his own adult stem cells were used, there was no need for drugs to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted windpipe; use of anti-rejection drugs, which have numerous side-effects, is a common problem in transplants using donated organs.

This is the second synthetic trachea transplant. The first transplant occurred in June 2011, and the results of that first synthetic trachea transplant were published in The Lancet. Macchiarini had done eight previous artificial trachea transplants, using cadaveric trachea stripped of cells and then coated with the patient’s own adult stem cells. The synthetic tracheal scaffold was designed and built by a Columbus, Ohio company and the bioreactor used to initiate growth of the adult stem cells on the scaffold for two days was built by a Massachusetts company.