A two-year-old girl born without a windpipe has become the youngest patient in the world to receive a bio-engineered organ after doctors implanted her with a special tube grown from her own stem cells.
Hannah Warren has been unable to breathe, eat, drink or swallow on her own since she was born in South Korea in 2010. Until the April 9 operation at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, the toddler had spent her entire life in a hospital in Seoul. Doctors there told her parents there was no hope and they expected her to die.
The stem cells came from Hannah’s bone marrow, extracted with a special needle inserted into her hip bone. They were seeded in a lab onto a plastic scaffold, where it took less than a week for them to multiply and create a new windpipe.
About the size of a 3-inch tube of penne pasta, it was implanted in a nine-hour procedure.
Early signs indicate the windpipe is working, although she is still on a ventilator. They believe she will eventually be able to live at home and lead a normal life.