Adult Stem Cell Research Yields Major Success in Patient’s Windpipe Transplant

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research Yields Major Success in Patient’s Windpipe Transplant

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 19
, 2008

London, England ( — The use of adult stem cells has ushered in another major success and, this time, doctors were able to use a patient’s own stem cells to give a woman a new windpipe. Very few trachea transplants have been performed and this new procedure could become a new standard of treatment.

The successful transplant again shows how adult stem cells are not only more ethical than their embryonic counterparts but more effective.

They also underscore the opposition to and lack of a need for incoming president Barack Obama to force taxpayers to fund the use of embryonic stem cells that involve the destruction of human life as he has promised to do.

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, head of thoracic surgery at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic, spearheaded the transplant for 30-year-old Colombian mother Claudia Castillo.

Castillo, who has two children and lives in Spain now, had a severe collapse of her lung, according to an AP report, and she required regular hospital visits to clear her airways. The problems left her unable to care for her children.

Doctors considered removing her entire left lung, but Macchiarini proposed the windpipe transplant. Scientists at Italy’s University of Padua prepared the transplant and doctors at the University of Bristol took adult stem cells from Castillo’s bone marrow from her hip and used them to create cartilage and tissue that could cover the windpipe.

Castillo, now the first patient to receive a whole organ transplant using her own cells, has shown no signs of rejecting the transplant and does not require any immune-suppressing drugs that have significant side effects.

She said she is "very happy" with the results and can now care for her children and walk without running out of breath.

Professor Martin Birchall, of the University of Bristol and who helped with the case, told the London Independent, "This is just the beginning. I think it will completely transform the way we think about surgery."

"In 20 years’ time the commonest surgical operations will be regenerative procedures to replace organs and tissues damaged by disease with autologous [self-grown] tissues and organs from the laboratory. We are on the verge of a new age in surgical care," he added.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who is now associated with the Family Research Council, talked about the case’s impact on the stem cell research debate.

"This is another great advance underscoring the real success of adult stem cells in beneficial patient treatment," he told "Using the patient’s own adult stem cells prevents the problem of transplant rejection, or the tumors that come with embryonic stem cells."

"Let’s hope that the public and politicians take notice, and steer more resources to the very real promise of adult stem cells, putting the patient first," he said.

The four teams of researchers involved published their results in the British medical journal Lancet.

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