A 36-year-old man with late-stage tracheal cancer was implanted with a synthetic windpipe this week. This is the first time an individual has received an organ that was created with a patient's own stem cells and without donor tissue, according to CNN. Lab-generated transplants in the past had always used a segment of donor windpipe or involved tissue only.
The windpipe is made of a bendy polymeric nanocomposite material, NewScientist reports. The trachea was coated with the patient's own stem cells which allowed the synthetic structure to become a living organ. Experts believe this procedure will work best for simple organs such as ureters and blood vessels.
"The big conceptual breakthrough is that we can move from transplanting organs to manufacturing them for patients," David Green, the president of Harvard Bioscience in Holliston, Massachusetts, which provided the technology for coating the synthetic trachea with the cells, told the news source.
The patient had already undergone chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for the extremely rare form of cancer. Doctors said his tumor had almost completely blocked his windpipe, which may have led to a life insurance claim. Normally a patient would have to wait for a transplant, but doctors believed they could grow the organ, CNN reports.