Last week, we announced that the second artificial trachea implant procedure had been performed under the leadership of Paolo Macchiarini, MD, PhD at the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden). To get some perspective on what this news means for the field of medicine and tissue engineering, Medgadget spoke with Dr. Macchiarini as well as David Green, president of Harvard Bioscience (Holliston, MA), a company that made the bioreactor used to create the tissue-engineered trachea implants.
“The most important thing to me is that we now have evidence that regenerative medicine has promise; we’ve proved that it works in the clinic,” says Macchiarini.
Green agrees that this breakthrough represents an important milestone. After years of controversies and hype, the benefits of regenerative medicine are finally starting to become real, he says.
“We have a top doctor working at a top hospital, and the research is being published in the Lancet, one of the world’s top medical journals,” Green told Medgadget. And the patient is “alive and well and free of cancer five months after surgery,” Green says. “This patient has never taken any immunosuppresive drugs,” he adds. The patient’s recovery from this cancer is remarkable. Tracheal cancer can be a very deadly disease, Green says, adding that tissue engineering could prove to be a cure for tracheal cancer—a disease that was previously untreatable.
The fact that patients in need of organ transplants will not have to rely on donors to provide them is a “major advantage,” Macchiarini says. And, although the treatment will likely first be available in wealthy nations, regenerative medicine will eventually be available all over the world, Macchiarini predicts. “This will be a major advantage where patients are not that well off economically,” he explains.
The next step is to learn how to tap into the potential of the nascent field. “We are in the beginning phase of a learning process with regenerative medicine,” Macchiarini says. The amount of progress that has been made since regenerative medicine’s beginnings decades ago, he adds. “That doesn’t mean that everyone will benefit from the technology soon, but it has least been [successfully] introduced in the clinic.”
Macchiarini also points out that, despite the promise of regenerative, there is still a need to exercise caution. “This is still a new branch of medicine,” he says.
Abstract in the Lancet: Tracheobronchial transplantation with a stem-cell-seeded bioartificial nanocomposite: a proof-of-concept study
Press releases : New Paper in The Lancet Describes Proof-of-Concept Study Involving Implantation of Synthetic Tissue-Engineered; Harvard Bioscience’s “InBreath” Bioreactor Used in World’s Second Successful Synthetic Trachea Transplant
Flashback: World’s First Artificial Trachea Transplant Patient Gets Successor