Windpipe transplant success in UK child


DOCTORS HAVE carried out groundbreaking surgery to rebuild the windpipe of a 10-year-old British boy from his own stem cells. If successful, they believe it could lead to a revolution in regenerative medicine.

The operation, lasting almost nine hours, took place at London’s Great Ormond Street children’s hospital last week. Stem cells taken from the boy’s bone marrow were injected into the fibrous collagen “scaffold” of a donor trachea, or windpipe. The organ, which had first been stripped of its own cells, was then implanted into the boy.

Over the next month, doctors expect the stem cells to begin transforming themselves within the boy’s body into internal and external tracheal cells. The boy, whose identity is being kept secret, is said to be doing well and breathing normally.

Because they are derived from his own tissue, there is no danger of the newly grown cells triggering an immune response. With a normal transplant, rejection of the organ would necessitate dampening down the child’s immune system with suppressive drugs.

The procedure was a big step forward from the pioneering surgery conducted in Spain two years ago on 30-year-old mother-of-two Claudia Castillo, the first person to receive a transplant organ created from stem cells. Ms Castillo was given a section of tracheal airway rebuilt from stem cells, but using a much more complex and costly process.

Prof Martin Birchall, head of translational regenerative medicine at University College London, said: “This procedure is different in a number of ways, and we believe it’s a real milestone.”

Protest planned over changes at Portiuncula

A PROTEST will take place on the streets of Ballinasloe, Co Galway, this weekend against proposals to restructure Portiuncula Hospital amid fears of a downgrading of services.

Thousands of locals are expected to take part in the march through the town on Sunday to highlight their serious concerns over the future of the east Galway hospital.

A Hospital Action Committee has been formed by the unions, Impact, Siptu and the INO which has the support of the local town council and the Chamber of Commerce.

General secretary of Impact West, Padraig Mulligan, warned that up to 700 jobs were under threat. “The only thing left in Ballinasloe is the hospital. All the major industries are gone and Portiuncula is the last big employer left. At the moment, the HSE is looking at selling the land and grounds at St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital and putting this money back into the HSE while, at the same time, the community is facing the downgrading of the jewel in the crown of employment in the town.”

Minister for Health Mary Harney has decided to expand the role of the general manager of University Hospital Galway to include responsibility for Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals. Locals fear this “super manager” role would be the first step in the downgrading of Portiuncula from a busy acute hospital to a step-down facility.

Mr Mulligan said all of the unions were “standing shoulder to shoulder” on this issue and they were now asking the community to come out and support them by taking part in the protest march.

Egg raffle sparks ethical controversy

A US fertility clinic sparked an ethical controversy by sponsoring a seminar in London that gave away an attempt to get pregnant using an American woman’s eggs. At the end of the seminar last week one of the attendees claimed she had won a free cycle of in vitro fertilisation, worth about €17,000.

“The idea that we are raffling off an egg is just not the case,” said Harvey Stern, director of reproductive genetics at the Fairfax clinic, which organised the seminar. “That’s just sensationalist.”

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