January 12, 2012 (FRC.org) - A 30-year-old Baltimore man is now back home recuperating from surgery in Sweden that implanted an artificial trachea made with his own adult stem cells.

Seven months ago Christopher Lyles was diagnosed with inoperable tracheal cancer. When conventional therapy failed, he learned that Italian Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, had constructed and transplanted replacement tracheas, using the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells to build the new tissue.

Lyles traveled to Sweden in November to have the surgery; he returned home this week with his new implanted trachea.

“What we did is surgically remove his malignant tumor,” Dr. Macchiarini told the New York Times. “Then we replaced the trachea with this tissue-engineered scaffold.”

In a telephone interview, Lyles said he was “feeling good,” and “just thankful for a second chance at life.” He was looking forward to watching his 4-year-old daughter grow up.  “He went home in very good shape,” said Dr. Macchiarini.

Macchiarini explained that Mr. Lyles’ adult stem cells were placed onto the synthetic windpipe scaffold, then grown in a bioreactor (a container that holds the stem cells in solution) for two days, and then transplanted into his body after removal of his tumorous trachea. The cells continue to grow and differentiate after implantation into Mr. Lyles.

Macchiarini pointed out:

“We’re using the human body as a bioreactor to promote regeneration.”

Because his own adult stem cells were used, there was no need for drugs to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted windpipe. Use of anti-rejection drugs, which have numerous side-effects, is a common problem in transplants using donated organs.

This is the second synthetic trachea transplant. The first transplant occurred in June 2011, and the results of that first synthetic trachea transplant were published in The Lancet.

Macchiarini had done eight previous artificial trachea transplants, using cadaveric trachea stripped of cells and then coated with the patient’s own adult stem cells. The synthetic tracheal scaffold was designed and built by a Columbus, Ohio, company and the bioreactor used to initiate growth of the adult stem cells on the scaffold for two days was built by a Massachusetts company.

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Dr. Prentice is Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at Family Research Council. This appeared in a different form on Dr. Prentice’s blog here.