Cancer of the trachea–or windpipe–is extremely rare, representing only 1% of all cancers. One patient, who had been diagnosed in 2008, had undergone chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but his tumors were threatening to block his windpipe when technology came to the rescue last month.
The first-ever synthetic windpipe was transplanted on June 9, and last week the patient left the hospital. Created in a lab without using donor tissue, the new trachea was made only of synthetic material and the patient’s own stem cells. The process took fewer than two weeks, versus waiting months for an organ donor, CNN reported.
In addition to bringing this patient back from the brink, the landmark procedure means he won’t require immune-suppressing drugs, which have significant side effects and can render subjects vulnerable to infection.