A synthetic trachea (or windpipe) represents the first successful transplant of an artificial organ created using stem cells. The surgery was performed on June 9 on a 36-year-old man suffering tracheal cancer at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, Stockholm.
Harvard Bioscience developed the artificial trachea called the “InBreath” bioreactor using polymers with a spongy and flexible texture. The form of the organ, stiff rings around the tube to mimic the structure of a human trachea, was based on 3D scans of the patient.
The synthetic form was then bathed in a solution containing the patient’s stem cells so that they would seed into the spongy material and grow. The stem cells were coaxed by physical and chemical cues into becoming the right organ cells. Eventually the thriving cells covered the replica and it became a living organ that was ready for transplant.
The surgery was a success and the patient’s body accepted the organ without any immunosuppressive drugs (since it was created using his own cells). Within 2 days the new organ showed a cough reflex and the patient should be released soon, now that it’s been a month after the surgery.