Teen Doing Well 2 Years After Stem Cell Windpipe Transplant

WEDNESDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Two years after he became the first child to receive a stem cell-supported trachea (windpipe) transplant, a 13-year-old boy is able to breathe normally, has grown about four inches taller, does not require any anti-rejection drugs and has returned to school.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch, born with a structural defect of his large airway, underwent the transplant in March 2010 at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. After his windpipe was removed, it was replaced by a windpipe from a deceased donor in Italy.

The windpipe was stripped of the donor's cells down to the inert structure of collagen. Tissue from the lining of Finn-Lynch's windpipe was implanted in the new windpipe to kick-start the growth of a lining in the new windpipe.

The surgeons laced the transplanted windpipe with Finn-Lynch's own bone marrow stem cells to prevent his body from rejecting the new organ. The teen also received compounds to promote the growth and differentiation of cells within the new windpipe.

It was the first attempt to grow stem cells within the body of a child who had this type of operation, rather than in a laboratory, according to an article published online July 25 in The Lancet.

"Since the treatment plan for Ciaran was devised in an emergency, we used a novel mix of techniques that have proved successful in treating other conditions," paper co-author Martin Birchall, a professor of laryngology at University College London's Ear Institute, said in a journal news release. "To minimize delays, we bypassed the usual process of growing cells in the laboratory over a period of weeks, and instead opted to grow the cells inside the body, in a similar manner to treatments currently being (tested) with patients who have had heart attacks."

He added that more research is needed on stem cells grown deliberately inside the body, rather than grown first in a laboratory over a long time. "This research should help to convert one-off successes such as this into more widely available clinical treatments for thousands of children with severe tracheal problems worldwide," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, July 25, 2012

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