She could put her lips together for the first time. “It was beautiful."
April 30, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe: [New York Times] — Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.
posted by Fizz (16 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I like living in the future.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:33 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I like that a little girl can now smile. I hope that there are no further complications.
posted by Fizz at 11:40 AM on April 30, 2013

...a little dust in my eyes
posted by leotrotsky at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

For anyone who's wondering the same thing I was: the artificial trachea may stretch a little bit but won't grow like a natural one would, so they're estimating that she would need a new, larger one in four years.
posted by XMLicious at 12:01 PM on April 30, 2013

Begun, this clone war has.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2013

Wonderful news, but as XMLicious points out, plastic fibers don't grow, so while this approach may be more successful in young children, it's probably more practical for repairs on adults who are done growing. What we really need to learn how to do is grow organs completely biologically, preferably without having to grow an entire host animal and kill it in the process.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:06 PM on April 30, 2013

Also, I'll stop wincing at using the word "harvest" for organs when we learn how to sow them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wile reading the story, I saw the comment about the doctor who was talking about the research. And I thought, well, if it needs to be replaced in four years, isn't that also useful? The old one can be examined for cellular changes to see what happened to the stem cells, and so on until she reaches (oh let's hope) adulthood. It seems the best of both worlds: a chance to examine the cellular development while the little girl lives to be an adult. Plus a way to determine a few other options for this same procedure, and similar ones. I'm sure it's not the most comfortable option for her, but some would say better than dying.

If I'm wrong, please set me right.
posted by mephron at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2013

Awesome, even with the necessary replacement, still awesome that we can now do this.
posted by marienbad at 12:21 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

And I thought, well, if it needs to be replaced in four years, isn't that also useful?

It's not that it's not useful, I'm just trying to imagine what it does to a little kid to have to anticipate and go through a nine-hour surgery every few years along with whatever other health problems she has. It would have been a relief to hear that she didn't have to face that but hopefully in the future people won't have to, maybe including her.
posted by XMLicious at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2013

Very cool, but this quote bears repeating:
Dr. David Warburton, director of the regenerative medicine program at the Saban Research Institute in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the windpipe work, said that “guarded optimism with a major dash of skepticism is the watchword” for such experimental approaches. “The challenges will be making a wind pipe that functions better than a temporary fix,” he said.
It looks like the longest survivor of this surgery is only 2-1/2 years out, so long term results are not known. On the other hand tracheal atresia/agenesis is uniformly fatal, so any potential advance is good.

Previous post on Macchiarini’s work here.
posted by TedW at 1:34 PM on April 30, 2013

Guys, the future is happening three miles from my house! THREE MILES FROM MY HOUSE!

My kids actually go to the med school teaching pediatric practice at that hospital. They do really wonderful work, but I got such a thrill when I saw that it was MY HOSPITAL doing this transplant! I know a couple of the doctors involved (in the pre- and post-op care, although I did meet one of the surgeons at a charity fundraiser), they are wonderful people.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:21 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hospital's press release, btw, and "media information" link at the bottom has a little more info
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:30 PM on April 30, 2013

Oh, one more -- local newspaper's photoblog, with lots of nice photos of therapy dogs and pediatric nail polish specialists and medical-grade crayons. ;)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:35 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by homunculus at 3:37 PM on April 30, 2013

Different case but perhaps this builds on the work described in the OP? This time a 3D-printed "tracheal splint" for a kid only a few months old, I think:
Doctors save baby’s life with 3D-printed tracheal implant

In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, two doctors from the University of Michigan described how they saved an infant with a life-threatening respiratory disorder using a custom-designed 3D-printed device. Printed with bio-absorbable plastic, the device is holding the child's airway open and allowing him to breathe normally.
posted by XMLicious at 10:14 PM on May 25, 2013

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