Last month (June 9), Swedish surgeons have implanted the first synthetic trachea. Yesterday, the still weak but healthy 36-year-old man was discharged from the hospital and sent home to Iceland to recover.
The patient had an aggressive, golf ball-sized tumor blocking his airways that had resisted chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Without surgery, the patient would have died, BBC reports. Researchers from University College London built the trachea out of a porous nanocomposite material, using detailed 3D scans of the patient’s trachea to create an exact replica. The researchers then soaked the synthetic trachea in bone marrow stem cells taken from the patient’s nose to reduce the risk of organ rejection and the need for immunosuppressive drugs. After growing for two days in a bioreactor developed by Harvard Bioscience, the millions of holes in the porous synthetic surface were seeded with cells, and the trachea was shipped to Sweden for surgery.
This proof of concept that synthetic scaffolds can be seeded with a patient’s own stem cells means that “patients will not need to wait for a suitable donor trachea to become available,” Harvard Bioscience President David Green said in a press release.