Legal Articles

May 2, 2013

Bioengineering takes step forward with groundbreaking windpipe surgery

On April 9th, Hannah Warren, a 2 1/2 –year-old girl born without a windpipe, underwent groundbreaking surgery to receive a bioengineered trachea. It was performed at Children’s Hospital of Illinois and was only the 6th operation of this kind ever attempted.

2 ½ years in the hospital

Since birth, Hannah has lived in the intensive care unit of a Korean hospital, breathing through a tube inserted through her mouth and down her throat. Her condition is very rare and is eventually fatal in 99 percent of all cases, which is why the Food and Drug Administration approved her experimental procedure.

The goal of regenerative medicine

According to The New York Times, the goal of bioengineering, or, more properly, regenerative medicine, is “to create or regrow tissues and organs to ease transplant shortages or treat conditions that do not have an effective cure.” This involves the use of stem cells harvested from the actual patients which cells then signal the body to repair itself. In Hannah’s case, her surgeon, Dr. Macchiarini, and his team created a half-inch in diameter tube out of plastic fibers, bathed them in a solution of her stem cells, incubated it to promote cell growth, and then implanted it where her trachea ought to have been.

Surgery regarded cautiously as success

At the time of this article, the surgery had occurred 3 weeks previously and the girl was doing well, despite a few complications from the surgery itself. The hospital’s pediatric surgeon said, “The trachea itself is doing great.”


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