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Friday November 28, 2008

Italian Carries Out World’s First Trachea Transplant – Patient Doing Well

Paolo Macchiarini operated on 30-year-old Colombian woman in Barcelona

MADRID – Tuscan surgeon Paolo Macchiarini is one of the leading figures in the world’s first trachea transplant, carried out at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona on a 30-year-old Colombian woman. Late diagnosis of tuberculosis had left Claudia Lorena Castillo, the mother of a 15-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, facing the loss of a lung after her seriously damaged trachea became blocked. It was the Italian surgeon, who moved some time ago to Barcelona, where he is head of thoracic surgery, who developed a completely innovative solution for her: a “personalised”, semi-artificial trachea.

THE OPERATION – A report in The Lancet explains how the collaboration of specialists at the universities of Bristol, Padua and Milan produced a “spare part” by boldly bringing together tissue engineering, a trachea from a 51-year-old donor and the patient’s stem cells. Team members in Padua “washed” a section of trachea, removed from a woman who died of a cerebral haemorrhage, to eliminate all trace of extraneous cells. This meant the transplant had a further benefit since the patient did not need to take any anti-rejection drugs. Paolo Macchiarini told that he had been thinking about carrying out a trachea transplant since he started studying medicine: “The respiratory tract is my specialist area”, he told the web site. “I’ve been studying how to simplify this kind of operation for 14 years”. Since the technique was experimental, Macchiarini had set up an emergency procedure in case something went wrong. Fortunately, it was not needed. Ms Castillo underwent the operation in June and has already made an excellent recovery.

Elisabetta Rosaspina