Friday, July 8, 2011

Stem cell-based trachea transplant: organleggers out of a job?

Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven are best known for putting the science in science fiction. Clarke’s 1968 novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Niven’s 1970 book, Ringworld are master works of science fiction. In fact, Clarke once named Niven as his favorite author, and his rigorous scientific consistency has earned a reputation as the premier author of "hard" science fiction.

In Niven’s short story, The Jigsaw Man, first published in 1968, he described the practice of organlegging, which was a major problem in the story set in the 22nd Century. At that time, Earth’s population is huge, people live well over 100 years and the demand for organs and limbs for use in spare part surgery becomes so acute that people are murdered and body parts are stolen to order.

The scary thing is that this practice happens today … A LOT!

Good news then. Last month, an international team based out of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm used a patient’s own stem cells to grow a trachea in vitro before transplanting the organ into the patient. The patient, whose late stage cancer had almost completely blocked his windpipe, had no other options since no suitable donor windpipes were available.

The trachea was built using a scaffold and a bioreactor to seed it with the patient's stem cells. New cells to line and cover the windpipe were then grown on the scaffold for two days before it was transplanted. Because the cells used to regenerate the trachea were the patient's own, there was no rejection of the transplant and the patient did not take any anti-rejection drugs. The patient is to be released from hospital today …

What’s next? Kidneys, lungs, maybe even a heart? Organleggers may soon be out of a job ...

By, BioTek Instruments

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