Woman given lab-engineered organ transplant


A woman has become the first person in the world to be given an entirely laboratory engineered organ in a landmark operation.

Claudia Castillo’s stem cells were used to create an artificial airway which replaced the bronchus to her left lung, which had collapsed after she suffered a serious tuberculosis infection.

The 30-year-old Colombian-born mother-of-two is also believed to be the first transplant patient not to need powerful drugs to subdue the immune system.

Even though she received no immunosuppressive drugs, so far doctors have seen no hint of Ms Castillo’s immune system rejecting the transplant.

Researchers from the Britain, Italy and Spain worked together to grow tissue from Ms Castillo’s own bone marrow stem cells, use them to fashion a new bronchus - a branch of the trachea or windpipe - and carry out the transplant operation.

Without the pioneering operation in June, Ms Castillo’s lung would have been removed by surgeons.

The scientists believe in years to come the same approach will be used to create engineered replacements for other damaged organs, such as the bowel, bladder or reproductive tract.

In five years time they hope to begin clinical trials in which laboratory-made voice boxes are implanted into patients with cancer of the larynx.

Prof Martin Birchall, a British member of the team from the University of Bristol, said: “What we’re seeing today is just the beginning. This is the first time a tissue-engineered whole organ has been transplanted into a patient.

“I reckon in 20 years’ time it will be the commonest operation surgeons will be doing. I think it will completely transform the way we think about surgery, health and disease.”

The transplant operation was performed on June 12th at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. The same procedure had only been attempted on pigs before.