The dream of being able to grow new organs to replace diseased or defective ones was the stuff of science fiction. Now it’s been done.
Surgeons at Karolinski University Hospital in Stockholm successfully transplanted a synthetic trachea which was created and grown in a laboratory into a patient dying from end-stage tracheal cancer. The surgery which was performed in July 2011 has been deemed a complete success and the patient has been discharged from the hospital.
No rejection issues
One of the key problems with organ transplants has always been the problem of rejection of the new organ by the body. Powerful anti-rejection drugs work by suppressing the immune system and leaving the transplant patient in danger from infections.
The new procedure uses a model of the patient’s own organ. The mold is created using CT scan images of the patient’s trachea. Scientists at University College London were able to construct a perfect copy of the patient’s trachea and the two main bronchi.
The glass model was then covered with a porous polymer which was infused with the patient’s own stem cells taken from his bone marrow. The artificial organ was placed in a bioreactor which was designed to protect the artificial organ and promote cell growth.
The bioreactor in which the new cells grow was developed by Harvard Bioscience. The company headquartered in Holliston, Massachusetts is a global leader in developing and manufacturing a wide range of specialized products which promote life science research around the world.
Advancing regenerative medicine
Amazingly the process of growing an exact replica takes very little time. Doctors expect that as the procedure become more common, they will be able to create a synthetic organ is a few weeks.
The trachea is a relatively simple organ to replicate. However, with the success of this transplant, doctors are looking at the possibility of replicating more complex organs.
Artificial organs would be superior to organs donated from other human beings in several ways. There is no need to wait for a donor to die in order to acquire an organ. Artificial organs can be made relatively quickly and since they are essentially constructed using the patient’s own cells, the patient will not need the powerful immunosuppressant drugs which are necessary with the traditionally donated organ.
What was science fiction is quickly becoming medical fact.
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